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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
I love jazz because with it I found my true voice. I have always sung since I was a very small child in school and church. And there have been many genre that I have enjoyed including spiritual, folk, country, latin, soca and pop
I love jazz because with it I found my true voice. I have always sung since I was a very small child in school and church. And there have been many genre that I have enjoyed including spiritual, folk, country, latin, soca and pop. But nothing has touched my artistic sensiblities like JAZZ! Two years ago I moved to Sarasota, FL where I renewed my focus on my singing career and I was so impressed with the quality, quantity and generousity of talented jazz musicains in the Suncoast area. I soon partnered with piano legend Billy Marcus and his trio with Don Mopsick and Stephen Bucholtz. What a blast working with these guys and having them back me up on my first jaz album, Here's To You... which was just released on October 1st. I can't wait to see where the coming year brings me! Check out syniacarrolljazz.com