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Album Review

Fred Moten, Brandon López, Gerald Cleaver: Moten/López/Cleaver


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Fred Moten, Brandon López, Gerald Cleaver: Moten/López/Cleaver
Chuck D of Public Enemy fame once said, "rap music is the CNN of the ghetto." His words, coupled with samples and the scratching of turntables, were revelatory in their day, very much like a five-minute news update. Poet and cultural critic Fred Moten's words are more like a deep dive graduate colloquy. He presents his poetry together with the accomplished improvising musicians, bassist Brandon Lopez and drummer Gerald Cleaver.

At a first pass, listeners will certainly be attentive to Moten's words which spill and stream throughout the seventy-nine-minutes of this performance. He holds forth on everything from the great migration to art, family, and the horrors of modern life, in light of George Floyd's murder. This is not Kenneth Patchen or Jack Kerouac reading in front of a jazz combo and unlike Lester Young or Billie Holiday there is no need to talk in code. Moten's words are more akin to Amiri Baraka or Cornell West; he pulls no punches.

Moten/López/Cleaver though is a trio recording. The three first assembled in 2019 to perform at Patricia Nicholson Parker and William Parker's Vision Festival and formally entered the recording studio in 2020 to capture this recording. López and Cleaver do not so much back or accent Moten's words as provide a body of water in which he can swim. Whether Cleaver is striking cymbals, serving up a rattling of metal, or keeping a sideways pulse, he is speaking his own poetry here. Likewise López elevates his double bass into a confabulation machine. Whether he is pulling huge tones or sawing bowed energy bursts, there is an earthiness to his sound. Listeners might come for the words then stay for the music or alternatively be drawn by the music and suddenly captured by Moten's erudite recitation. Either way, this is an engaging destination.

Track Listing

The Abolition Of Art, The Abolition Of Freedom, The Abolition Of You And Me; B Jenkins; B Jenkins 2; The Faerie Ornithologie; A Poem For Black Art; James Baldwin; Laura Harris; JohnThompson; Surfacing.


Fred Moten: poet/spoken word; Brandon Lopez: bass, acoustic; Gerald Cleaver: drums.

Album information

Title: Moten/López/Cleaver | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Relative Pitch Records

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