For an introduction to the Chicago jazz scene, look no further than the Chicago Yestet's line-up on Jazz Is Politics?. From drummer Dana Hall (Terell Stafford) to John Wojciechowski, a finalist in the 1996 Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition, the roster reads like a who's who in Midwestern jazz.
Staying true to the album's namesake, the Yestet opens with the "The Decider," a track featuring audio clips from former President George W. Bush speech, famously giving himself the same title. The lyrical styling of emcee Rob Dz here, and elsewhere in the set again nods at the album title by borrowing a main component of one of the most politically debated styles of music. Bandleader/trombonist Joel Adams includes his arrangement of the church hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy," referencing yet another heated topic on the American political scene.
Adams' pen shows a lack of fear, as the album's overall stylistic spectrum goes from classical horn chorales on "Holy, Holy, Holy," and Thad Jones-style big band writing on "Solace," to the hip-hop groove behind emcee Rob Dz on "Domestic Tranquility." The trombonist's lengthy arrangements might be off-putting, as each extends beyond seven minutes; fortunately, his placement of soloists on the album creates a much-needed variety to keep it interesting. Pianist Dan Trudell's improvisations elevate "The Decider" and "Yo-Yo" in ways that written parts could not, and the same is true of guitarist Jeff Parker's solo work on "Domestic Tranquility" and "Peace Dance." In fact, "Holy, Holy, Holy" takes on a life of its own when the entire band freely improvises to close out the solo section.
Having an all-star team of musicians from the Chicago jazz scene would do the band no good were it not for Adams' tastefully intriguing compositions and arrangements. When the Chicago Yestet asks Jazz Is Politics? it seems the only answer is: yes.
Joel Adams: composer, arranger, and trombone; Rob Dz: vocals and
lyrics; Pat Mallinger: alto and tenor saxophone; Scott Burns: tenor
saxophone; John Wojciechowski: tenor saxophone and bass clarinet;
Victor Garcia: trumpet and flugelhorn; Tito Carillo: trumpet and
flugelhorn; Tom Garling: trombone; Dan Trudell: piano; Jeff Parker:
guitar (1, 4, 7); Clark Sommers: bass; Dana Hall: drums.