("21st Century" in Spanish) is big-band jazz with a conscience, cerebral music capably performed by the Indiana-based Liberation Music Collective, a successor to Charlie Haden
/ Carla Bley
's similarly high-minded Liberation Music Orchestra from the '70s and beyond. Interspersed among the nine musical selections are brief interviews with alto saxophonist Matthew Setzler, baritone Durand Jones, trumpeter Jess Henry and percussionist Julian Loida on topics ranging from religious tolerance and feminism to jazz mass, the benefits of unity and the circumstances of black men in America.
The songs themselves, five written by bassist / co-founder Hannah Fidler, the others by trumpeter / co-founder Matt Riggen, touch on the futility of war, the sacred aspects of Islam, immigration and demographic change, humanity's relationship with the planet, the struggles for equality endured by LGBT couples and members of the black community who are impeded by homophobia and racism, a feminist perspective on American history, and the power of collective alliances to help create fairer social structures that lead to better ways to live and love. Some have lyrics of a sort, others do not. On Fidler's "Bismillah," for example, there are spoken words (from speeches by Amina Wadud, El Farouk Khaki and Malcolm X), a Qu'ranic recitation and call to prayer; on "Herstory" a feminist rap by Fidler; on "Black & Red" poetry by Fidler, more excerpts from speeches (by Malcolm X and Troy Jackson) and an audio clip from Eric Garner's final moments as he was strangled to death by a New York City policeman. There's another lyric, this time by Riggen, on "Anthem of the 99%."
Elsewhere, the ensemble is in the driver's seat ("Murasaki," "War Department," "El Viento," "Interitus," "Wedding Hymn") and acquits itself well, with respectable solos along the way by Setzler, Jones, Fidler, Riggen, trumpeter Joe Anderson, trombonists Sean Weber and Philip Brito, bass trombonist Brennan Johns (French horn on "Bismillah" and "El Viento"), tenor Sam Motter, pianist Evan Main, guitarist Joel Tucker
and drummer Ben Lumsdaine. "Murasaki" honors the tenth-century Japanese poetess Murasaki Shikibu, the lovely "Wedding Hymn" the trials and triumphs of LGBT couples. Two selections, "War Department" and "Interitus" (the last a chronicle of humanity's relationship with earth), devolve into readily foreseeable chaos at the end. Aside from that, melody, harmony and rhythm are ascendant.
For those who enjoy jazz that is interlaced with sizable doses of incitement and morality, Siglo XXI
could be a perfect fit. The LMC is quite good at what it does, the arrangements are by and large persuasive, the playing time a CD-full eighty minutes. True, it may not please everyone's palate, but what music ever does?
Murasaki; War Department; Matthew: Jazz Mass; Bismillah; Durand: New / Vibrant / Dangerous / Sexy; El Viento; Jess: Get Our Act Together; Interitus; Jess: Tolerance; Wedding Hymn; Julian: Feminism; Herstory; Durand: Black Man in America; Black & Red; Anthem of the 99%.
Hannah Fidler: co-founder, bass, vocals; Matt Riggen: co-founder, trumpet; Jess Henry: trumpet; Joe Anderson: trumpet; Matthew Setzler: alto sax; Sam Motter: tenor sax; Durand Jones; baritone sax; Sean Weber: trombone; Felipe Brito: trombone; Brennan Johns: bass trombone, French horn; Joel Tucker: guitar; Evan Main: piano; Ben Lumsdaine: drums; Kristin Olson: timbales; Julian Loida: congas; Cole Stover: chequere.