Most jazz artists don't choose to create a concept album as their debut. But drummer Tina Raymond
has done just that with Left Right Left
, teaming up with pianist Art Lande
and bassist Putter Smith
for a wide-ranging piano trio outing that explores America's political climate via a mix of patriotic songs, a pair of Woody Guthrie tunes, a Joni Mitchell cover, a pair of outstanding Putter Smith originals, and Joan Baez's gorgeous "Saigon Bride."
Lande and Smith are jazz veterans who have the ability to ride inside or outside. Lande teamed with avant-garde reedman Gebhard Ullmann
on Die Blaue Nixe
(Between The Lines, 2006). Smith joined the poet drummer Billy Mintz
on his Mintz Quartet
(Thirteenth Note Records, 2013). These are two recordings that resist labels. The same is true of the sound of Left Right Left
. Where Woody Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty" gets an injection of jazz sophistication and perhaps an Eastern (Japanese folk music?) tint; the ever familiar "Battle Hymn Of the Republic" begins straight ahead before veering into dissonance and discord; and "America" ("America The Beautiful") has a jauntiness that Lande rolls into an ebullient improvisation.
The compositional voice of Woody Guthrie gets an ethereal, floating treatment, with "Union Maid," vying with Joni Mitchell's "Fiddle And the Drum" and Joan Baez's "Saigon Bride" for the most beautiful tunes on the set. The Mitchell tune sounds like a spontaneous compositionloose and fluid, grey and gloomy in mood, showcasing Raymond's percussive poetics. Bassist/composer Smith's "Xxmas In Baghdad" is a study in spare, egalitarian trio interplay. Left Right Left
is, in it's way, a nod to the progressive movement, the left side of politics. It could accurately be called "The American Suite," with it's mood of somehow enchanting discontent, and its reinterpretations of the beauty of these tunesa voice against the malevolence and mendacity that have way of surfacing and making loud splashing sounds in the roiling of country's storm-tossed political seas. Sometimes that's the voice that the artists have to use.