All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

336

World Saxophone Quartet: Political Blues

By

Sign in to view read count
Political conscience occupies a special place in the quintessence of modern jazz, fueling, in its most heated moments, the stuff of blunt insurrection. It remains to be seen whether Political Blues, the most recent offering by the World Saxophone Quartet, occupies the same territory as those few moments of musical activism that have not only informed but also crucially affected the practice of revolution—Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite (Candid, 1960) is one, Charlie Haden's first Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse!, 1969) is another. Regardless, the WSQ is no quiet voice, and Political Blues is no failing salvo. This is the fierce, hard spirit of jazz, a volley at the heart of dire times that tugs at the bare, black and blue roots of the music.

Bare is the operational word here. There are seldom records like this one—for better or worse, perhaps, but few so plain and downright angry. The WSQ discography is renowned for its idiosyncrasies, and the group here assembled is hardly the crowd to stay pegged in place. Here, amidst the melee, are the three surviving members of the original WSQ, perhaps the only group to fully apprehend the dimensions of the all-saxophone format and never, together or alone, withering violets. But there's also something different. It took the combined forces of racism, political conservatism, war, economic downturn, and unprecedented economic disaster to turn the joie de vivre of the WSQ sound into something altogether more menacing and, at times, shockingly unchecked.

This is not the kind of finely hewn, delicately crafted album that the WSQ is known for, although the arrangements are certainly together and the playing as potent as ever. This is a full-group recording, the classic, multi-tiered saxophone voicings occupying a subsidiary role among the measured fury of the ensembles. Rough backbeats and spindly, vertiginous bass lines are interspersed with declamations of frustration, raging at life, America, and, at the root, the somber fecklessness of revolt.

This revolt, though, is somewhat vaguer than one might imagine. Far more than the decisively incendiary lyrics, it is the sheer plangency of the horns, groping at registers, notes, and expressions out of reach—indeed, a freedom beyond the scope of the compositions—that creates the more effective moments. There is exhaustion here, tempered only by a total reluctance to surrender. Even without the abstraction, this is "fire music in full effect: Black, American and pissed.

Many musicians have tried, but few have achieved so devastating and honest a picture of the American struggle in the 21st Century. If it is not the most artful statement of political conscience that modern jazz can deliver, than Political Blues is at least a study in how the jazz musician can feel—and, if not escape "the blues," then at least fight from within.


Track Listing: Political Blues; Hal's Blues; Mannish Boy; Let's Have Some Fun; Amazin' Disgrace; Bluocracy Pt. I; Bluocracy Pt. II; Bluocracy Pt. III; Blue Diamond; Harlem; Spy On Me Blues.

Personnel: Bluiett: baritone saxophone; Oliver Lake: alto and soprano saxophone (vocals on 11); David Murray: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet (vocals on 1); Jamaaladeen Tacuma: electric bass; Bruce Williams: alto and soprano saxophone (4, 11); Craig Harris: trombone, didjeridoo (vocals on6); Lee Pearson: drums; James "Blood" Ulmer: guitar, vocals (3); Jeremy Pelt: trumpet (1); Carolyn Amba Hawthorne: vocals (5); Jaleel Shaw: alto and soprano saxophone; Herve Samb: guitar (1).

Title: Political Blues | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Justin Time Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
 

Yes We Can

Hoob Jazz
2010

buy
Political Blues

Political Blues

Justin Time Records
2007

buy
Political Blues

Political Blues

Justin Time Records
2006

buy
Experience

Experience

Justin Time Records
2005

buy
Experience

Experience

Justin Time Records
2004

buy
Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf

Justin Time Records
2002

buy

Related Articles

Read Murals CD/LP/Track Review
Murals
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 20, 2018
Read Cosmic Language CD/LP/Track Review
Cosmic Language
by Chris May
Published: May 20, 2018
Read More Songs About Error And Shame CD/LP/Track Review
More Songs About Error And Shame
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: May 20, 2018
Read Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley CD/LP/Track Review
Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 20, 2018
Read Earth CD/LP/Track Review
Earth
by Chris May
Published: May 20, 2018
Read Vegir CD/LP/Track Review
Vegir
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 19, 2018
Read "Zero" CD/LP/Track Review Zero
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 6, 2018
Read "Powell To The People" CD/LP/Track Review Powell To The People
by Jim Worsley
Published: May 16, 2018
Read "I Know I Dream" CD/LP/Track Review I Know I Dream
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 22, 2017
Read "Fullmoon" CD/LP/Track Review Fullmoon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 25, 2018
Read "BACHanalia" CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 25, 2017
Read "Along The Way" CD/LP/Track Review Along The Way
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 5, 2017