Drummer/composer/band leader Mark Lomax must not be afraid of ghosts. Because with all the spirits hovering over his recording The State Of Black America
, it would be understandable that he and his band of saxophonist Edwin Bayard and bassist Dean Hulett might be a bit intimidated to bridge the firebrand music of the 1960s from today's world. To get there they were obliged to walk the roads traveled by John Coltrane
, Albert Ayler
, Sonny Rollins
, John Tchicai
and Archie Shepp
That's a journey few bands are willing to embark on these days, casually remarking, "its been done before." Audacious music such as these tracks written and performed here by Lomax are capable of getting one's band laughed off a bandstand. No laughing here, as the trio has plenty of bite to go with its bark.
From the first drum roll the band drops into a heavy groove, Lomax with a constant muscular pulse that launches Bayard into interstellar space in "Stuck In A Rut." The outwardness is tempered by an athletic blues feel. By the time the band gives way to Hulett's bass solo, recalling Jimmy Garrison, the perspiration is apparent.
Likewise, "To Know God Is To Know Thyself" is marked by its firebrand nature, calling forth the late-Coltrane and Rashied Ali dynamism. The task they perform is above reproach, burning through this energy jazz piece, each player standing his ground to deliver an unflinching tour de force.
The credence of this recording comes from the slower and gentler ballads and blues. "The Unknown Self" nudges the poetry of Lomax with an insistent confidence underscored by Hulett's earnest solo. The ending piece, the downtempo "Blues For Charles (Who Split B4 The Butterfly Flew In)" is apt to take the breath away with its lubricious mood. Bayard gives one of those soulful Coleman Hawkins performances that lingers long past the end of the track.