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Mazz Swift: The 10000 Things: PRAISE SONGS for the iRiligious


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Mazz Swift: The 10000 Things: PRAISE SONGS for the iRiligious
The writer and critic Amiri Baraka (1934-2014) spoke of free jazz in terms of an essential and spiritual Blackness. Further, he described a return to collective improvisation as the "all-force put together." More vitally he suggested that free jazz reinforced the valuable memories of a people while at the same time creating new forms. This reasoning and sense of the "all-force" might apply to Juilliard-trained violinist Mazz Swift, who blends old praise and protest songs, electronica and mindfulness into their music. A performer and writer in numerous projects, this album represents their first solo outing.

Poignancy and joy are the hallmarks of this very fine debut. Swift brings the African American oral tradition into a new age with explosive honesty and virtuosic tension. Their work signifies a classical background, but encourages exploration via a plethora of competing sounds. There is no artificial division of genres, nothing contrived in Swift's mix of the sacred and secular, this creation of new forms. It also aligns them with a current wave of like minds including Angel Bat Dawid, Joy Guidry, Matana Roberts and aja monet.

A prison holler collected by Alan Lomax in 1947 forms the basis of opening cut "No More." Swift's violin skids and screaks in first, before shaping into skronky rustica like a piece of avant-Appalachia. Their sanctified vocal contains both swagger and sorrow, at once seeking Jesus and vowing never to turn back from Him. Yet below this defiant grace, Swift lays surly synths and junk percussion as if to confound us. You wanted a record of sweet gospel standards with a few add-ons? Too easy, Swift implies, too predictable.

"Someday School" also opens with fraught violin work, looped and multi-tracked into a frenzy. Underneath comes a rapid foetal heartbeat, as if this music is being heard from the womb. Swift's glorious voice then digs into a revised version of the slave song "Give Up The World," which possibly originates from the Port Royal Experiment in Carolina. The moon, the sun and all the narrator's family are urged to leave this world behind. A mystical hymn, it gains much from Swift's sermonic approach.

"Eye Woke Up/O Brother" is a startling blend of righteous chants, trippy textures and Swift's cut-up confessions. "Freedom House" has the violin probing in a quizzical fashion, almost sax-like as it ascends the scales with a flourish. What comes next is more like a guitar barrage of broken chords, or the work of a crazed country fiddler, as Swift goes into raptures. Soulful singers cry out over a slow stack of breakbeats. The wordless "Hidden In Plain Sight" crackles and shivers, before "Alabamy" brings three stark minutes of tenderly sung and fiercely felt worship, wherein Swift's ghostly harmonies echo centuries of injustice.

Some whip-smart word play on "Don-I Know Dis" sets the peace prayer "Dona Nobis Pacem" against Swift's musings on the watchful language of slave songs. "BLVK Meditation" is adapted from Regie Gibson's poetry, as a rhythm track hips and hops over sensory images, before "New Anthem" builds on what could be sampled kalimbas into a potent album finale. Taking an obscure spiritual ("Sister Dolly Light The Lamp" probably first known as "The White Marble Stone") we get a streetwise rendition by Swift, mixed with recordings of sibling banter about their family's origins. It sounds like they all grew up in a vibrant, feisty and comradely musical home. One where Swift, aged four, first heard the violin and decided upon their vocation right then.

Track Listing

No More; Someday School; Eye Woke Up / O Brother; Freedom House; Hidden in Plain Sight; Alabamy; Don’I Know-dis…?; BLVK MEDITATION; New Anthem.


Mazz Swift
Additional Instrumentation

Mazz Swift; violin, vocals, keyboards, programming.

Album information

Title: The 10000 Things: PRAISE SONGS for the iRiligious | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: New Amsterdam Records

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