135

Denys Baptiste: Let Freedom Ring!

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
With jazz becoming such a broad landscape that labels are increasingly difficult to apply, it's difficult, if not impossible, to identify specific new movements like the ones that appeared in the middle decades of the 20th Century. While there have been all kinds of innovations to be sure, there hasn't been anything quite so sweeping as the emergence of bebop, free jazz, cool jazz, or fusion. Artists continue to expand many of these artificial boundaries (and more), but it's safe to say there hasn't been anything so all-encompassing that it's completely altered the way we look at jazz as a whole—smaller increments, say, rather than big steps.

One end result of this change in the way jazz is evolving is that it is rare to find an album of such monumental influence or scope that it literally redefines the collective zeitgeist. While there's no lack of strong recordings being released, this shift—not to mention the marginalization of jazz as a whole—has meant that one would be hard-pressed to find a modern Kind of Blue or A Love Supreme. But it isn't that albums with the same kind of potential aren't being released; it's simply that the whole landscape of music, and art in general, has changed.

One might wonder how Let Freedom Ring! would have been viewed had it been released in the '60s. One can't help but think that if this tribute, in music and spoken word, to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream speech had come out forty years ago, it might have been considered an album of major significance. By creating a sprawling work of four interconnected pieces that incorporate elements of a more mainstream jazz tradition with Afro-Cuban concerns and a hint of European impressionism, saxophonist Denys Baptiste has created an album with the clear potential to become a classic.

With an ensemble combining a four-piece frontline of tenor and alto saxophones, trumpet and trombone with a cello/violin string section and a more traditional rhythm section of piano, guitar, bass, drums, and percussion, Baptiste has a large palette at his disposal, and he uses it to great effect throughout the suite. Each part is in itself almost a miniature suite with plenty of shifts. And while there is an overall structure to each piece, there's also plenty of room for the soloists to explore.

There are elements of Mingus in "With This Faith, with its raucous handclapping, shouts, and gospel inflection recalling tunes like "Better Git It Within Your Soul, while the title track combines rich counterpoint and a Third Stream sensibility with a chaotically free middle section. Overall there's a feeling of evolution from innocence to protest to final resolution and celebration that makes the entire suite come together as a unified narrative.

Will Let Freedom Ring! have the overall impact as, say, Kind of Blue? Probably not, but it's not because the album doesn't have the makings of a classic; and there's no doubt this recording will bring Baptiste's name into greater profile.

Visit Denys Baptiste on the web.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Kurrent CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Duets CD/LP/Track Review Duets
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Rev CD/LP/Track Review Rev
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1 CD/LP/Track Review The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1
by Jim Olin
Published: October 17, 2017
Read The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren CD/LP/Track Review The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 16, 2017
Read Any Other Way CD/LP/Track Review Any Other Way
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 16, 2017
Read "Imaginist" CD/LP/Track Review Imaginist
by Mike Jacobs
Published: December 1, 2016
Read "Wee +3" CD/LP/Track Review Wee +3
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 7, 2016
Read "Altadena" CD/LP/Track Review Altadena
by Mark F. Turner
Published: December 9, 2016
Read "More Powerful" CD/LP/Track Review More Powerful
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 6, 2017
Read "Notes Over Poetry" CD/LP/Track Review Notes Over Poetry
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: June 11, 2017
Read "Rebirth" CD/LP/Track Review Rebirth
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 4, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.