The ideals of promise and hope, and the desire to create a better world and drive out the darkness, need not be fueled or forwarded by the extraordinary. As George Takei, the legendary actor-cum-activist once noted in referencing the individuals who provided succor during the horrors of the Japanese-American internment camps of World War II, it's often the "ordinary heroes" who light the way.
Taking inspiration from Takei's words, pianist Peter Hum uses his third album as a platform to address modern day sociopolitical issues through music while, hopefully, spurring dialogue and interest in certain causes and calamities. In some respects it's a lofty goal for a jazz album to take on, but it's most certainly one worth striving for.
Reuniting with the majority of the musicians from his previous albumsA Boy's Journey (Self-Produced, 2010) and Alpha Moment (Self-Produced, 2015)Hum is clearly in his element. Right off the bat, on "Crises and Reckonings," this band is in sync. As gorgeous thematic material is unfurled over a bounding groove in three, Hum serves as harmonic anchor and artistic compass. He smartly combines and contrasts with guitarist Mike Rud as the music plays on, and he capably supports the magnificently-twined lines of trumpeter David Smith and tenor saxophonist Kenji Omae. Marked as "a song for turbulent times when scandal follows scandal," it also speaks, in sound and substance, to the possibility of moving beyond the madness.
In the tracks that follow, Hum works a variety of lines tethered to the same pole. "Cassandra," with cool borders and solid swing at its center, ties into Greek mythology and nods to those who knew the storm was on its way; "Fake News Blues," tweaking a tried-and-true form without undermining its influence, calls out disinformation designs (and designers) while giving bassist Alec Walkington and drummer Ted Warren a little room to trade; "Nebulous Compensation," opening on Rud's placid pondering, settles in as a swaying bossa and sets its sights on those who sell out the environment for an easy buck; and the mournful yet resolute "Tears for the Innocent," with bassist Dave Watts at the fore, serves as a threnody to the victims of Quebec City's Islamic Culture Centre shooting, a tribute to all who've been taken in similar incidents and a call for reason.
Hum shows an acute awareness of how music can reflect circumstances and scenarios, demonstrated in much of the aforementioned material and numbers like "Safe Passage," which carves out a path for the displaced people of Syria to travel. But of equal if not greater importance, his music stands strong on its own. Whether listeners take heart in knowing that Peter Hum is fighting the good fight with his pen and piano or remain entirely ignorant of the root influences herein does little to alter the strength of this work. The ordinary heroes in this band have put together a solid statement from start to finish.
Crises and Reckonings; Cassandra; Fake News Blues; Nebulous Compensation; Rabble Rouser; Embers; Tears for the Innocent;
Spare Heart; Safe Passage; Ordinary Heroes.
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