All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

307

Howard Wiley: The Angola Project

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Music has often been used to commemorate the indefatigable resolve of the human spirit in the face of great suffering. Countless interpretations of field hollers, slave chants and spirituals have been re-envisioned by trained musicians, only to have the raw, unrefined soulfulness of the originals smothered by academic excess.

Bay Area saxophonist Howard Wiley's fervent tribute to the prison music of Angola State Prison avoids this fate. Wiley uses recordings of the gospel spirituals and work song hollers sung in the Angola Penitentiary in the 1950s as the conceptual foundation for The Angola Project. Primal and unfettered, Wiley's ensemble blends ebullient New Orleans vamps, somber blues, poignant operatic vocals and expressive free-jazz catharsis into an organic whole.

A piquant blend of brass and strings, Wiley augments a horn-heavy, piano-less New Orleans styled line-up with a pair of violinists and a trio of vocalists. Utilizing an assortment of line-ups throughout the album, the ensemble ranges from a stripped-down saxophone trio on a swinging rendition of Ornette Coleman's "Peace" to ten musicians on "Trouble of the World."

The rhythm section and brass play with an appropriately ragged edge, but the operatic vocalese of Faye Carol, Jeannine Anderson and Lorin Benedict soar with an ethereal grace that elevates the session beyond mere formalism. Hauntingly transcendent, they bring an austere otherworldliness to the proceedings, drawing a historical timeline to the seminal 1960s vocal/choir experiments of Max Roach.

Recalling another politically active sixties-era maverick—saxophonist Archie Shepp—Wiley plays with roiling intensity, his gruff tone and linear attack rarely resorting to histrionics, yet commanding attention with a scorching tone.

The Angola Project shares thematic similarities with both Wynton Marsalis' From The Plantation To The Penitentiary (Blue Note, 2007) and David Murray's Sacred Ground (Justin Time, 2007). Back in the early 1980s, the jazz press was filled with inflammatory articles trumpeting the culture war between the upcoming neo-conservative "young lions" (Wynton Marsalis) and the liberal, post-loft jazz generation (David Murray).

Reconciling the aesthetic differences of both camps with emotional conviction and compositional forethought, Wiley's efforts are closer to Murray's (who contributes a stirring solo on "Angola"), delivered with a rousing freedom unheard on Marsalis' recordings. Rough yet refined, The Angola Project is a powerful conceptual statement.


Track Listing: Twelve Gates to the City; Angola; The Conversation; Trouble of the World; Peace; Rosie; No More My Lord; Rise & Fly; Amazing Grace; Second Line.

Personnel: Howard Wiley: tenor saxophone; David Murray: tenor saxophone (2); Geechi Taylor: trumpet; Danny Armstrong: trombone; Faye Carol: vocals; Jeannine Anderson: vocals; Lorin Benedict: vocals; Yerdua Cesear-Kaptoech: violin; Vivian McBride: violin; David Ewell: bass; Devin Hoff: bass; Sly Randolph: drums.

Title: The Angola Project | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: H.N.I.C. Music

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Making Other Arrangements CD/LP/Track Review
Making Other Arrangements
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 19, 2018
Read Music in Motian CD/LP/Track Review
Music in Motian
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 19, 2018
Read Descansado - Songs For Films CD/LP/Track Review
Descansado - Songs For Films
by John Ephland
Published: April 19, 2018
Read Bright Force CD/LP/Track Review
Bright Force
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 19, 2018
Read Simbiose CD/LP/Track Review
Simbiose
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 18, 2018
Read For Lew CD/LP/Track Review
For Lew
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 18, 2018
Read "Déjà Vu" CD/LP/Track Review Déjà Vu
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 20, 2017
Read "The Things We Did Last Summer" CD/LP/Track Review The Things We Did Last Summer
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 5, 2017
Read "New Angle" CD/LP/Track Review New Angle
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 13, 2017
Read "Err Guitar" CD/LP/Track Review Err Guitar
by Don Phipps
Published: December 4, 2017
Read "Asteroidea" CD/LP/Track Review Asteroidea
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 4, 2017
Read "Influx" CD/LP/Track Review Influx
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: March 4, 2018