Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved reader experience across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

290

Sisters of Swing: Kicking the Habit

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
It's hard to imagine any kind of followup to In The Habit , the live debut from the Sisters of Swing, but the quartet has managed to rise one notch higher. Adding to the positive themes of spirituality and enlightenment from their first record, Kicking the Habit focuses on Sister Martha's recovery from ergot addiction.

For those not in the know, ergot is an unusual fungus which grows on rye. In its ordinary form it can cause paralysis, convulsions, and death. However, upon baking the grain into bread, a significant amount of the toxin is converted to LSD. For centuries ergot has been intimately, although covertly, associated with Church culture. Some of the greatest visions in religious history have been attributed to simple rye bread, including experiences by all the major prophets. Think about those loaves and fishes, for example.

Sister Martha, the pianist in this quartet, spent ten long years as an ergot addict. While this period was her most creatively fertile, it had devastating consequences on her responsibilities in the convent. She had to be subdued several times for claiming she had seen Jesus in drag. (The mother superior had a bit of a problem with facial hair, which may account for some of these visions.)

Martha's three Sisters on this date show a surprising empathy for her condition. On "I Saw Him and He Was Her," Sister Agnes dives deep into the bottom end of her baritone saxophone to growl along with bassist Sister Mary. But it's Sister Martha who brings the piece together when she scats brightly atop the calypso portion that follows. On the upbeat "Freedom From Freedom," the group synergizes for a fully improvised romp in the spirit of Ornette Coleman's early quartets. It's remarkable how the four voices manage to simultaneously intertwine four hymns in this piece.

In the liner notes, John H. Lienhard asks of ergot, "Is it from God? Is it from the Devil? Or is it from the bread we eat?" Clearly it's all three. Sister Martha learned this the hard way, and now she adheres to a strict bread-free diet. And her piano playing soars free and unfettered, thanks to a little help from her Sisters.

For more information, see John H. Lienhard's notes .


Track Listing: I Saw Him and He Was Her; Organ Jam; Bake Wheat Not Rye; Astral Traveling; Freedom From Freedom.

Personnel: Sister Mary - bass; Sister Martha - piano, keyboards; Sister Agnes - tenor and baritone saxophones; Sister Amelia - drums.

Title: Kicking the Habit | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Heavenly Sounds

April fools!

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Roppongi CD/LP/Track Review Roppongi
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Is Life Long? CD/LP/Track Review Is Life Long?
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Contra la indecision CD/LP/Track Review Contra la indecision
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Vessel in Orbit CD/LP/Track Review Vessel in Orbit
by Don Phipps
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Pulse/Quartet CD/LP/Track Review Pulse/Quartet
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: January 19, 2018
Read OR CD/LP/Track Review OR
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 18, 2018
Read "Chicago II" CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Town And Country" CD/LP/Track Review Town And Country
by Jerome Wilson
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "Open Borders" CD/LP/Track Review Open Borders
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 14, 2018
Read "Saturday Night Dogs" CD/LP/Track Review Saturday Night Dogs
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 30, 2017
Read "A Cast of Thousands" CD/LP/Track Review A Cast of Thousands
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 30, 2017
Read "Move Upstairs" CD/LP/Track Review Move Upstairs
by James Nadal
Published: May 27, 2017