USA, 2011, avant-garde jazz / spiritual jazz
This album starts as a paradox, namely as a beautiful cacophony, and the vocals, strong yet broken, rise perfectly out of this sonic storm. Then the violins soar, evoking more familiar emotions and granting the much-needed respite from the opening tempest. There follows a powerful a capella rendition of a slave auction, with all its attendant sexual callousness (the upright bass lead-in is perfect, providing the backbone to the auction bidding chant breakdown). The music swirls on into mournful violins, the sound of a lonely buoy bell, and eerie voices singing in…not-English. This calm doesn’t last long, though, for the narrative descends into frightening vocal territory with harrowing cries and groans. The rhythm and phrasing become more tribal in feel. We find out why she cries when she tells the story of her having to buy her own children out of bondage. In the end, this album sounds like a really well-put-together art school project. This avant-garde spiritual jazz is also conscious jazz.