Irreversible Entanglements, Open the Gates, International Anthem *****

Riffing without finishing the phrase of what sounds like the melody of Stephen Foster's 'Camptown Races' recordings of which date back to 1911 but the song is much older harking back to the exploitation era of minstrelsy on opener 'Open the Gates' …

Published: 14 Nov 2021. Updated: 19 days.

Riffing without finishing the phrase of what sounds like the melody of Stephen Foster's 'Camptown Races' recordings of which date back to 1911 but the song is much older harking back to the exploitation era of minstrelsy on opener 'Open the Gates' interspersed with spoken word poetry from Camae Ayewa aka Moor Mother that's quite a juxtaposition from the 5-piece US spiritual jazz ensemble Irreversible Entanglements. Arty with a street beat defiance to melt away the thought of such traumatic history is what they're about as the record gets going and highly political religiosity is also intrinsic to their style. A triggered riff changes the goalposts entirely on 'Keys to Creation' opening into moody Harmon-muted trumpet from Aquiles Navarro. And, in a bolt from the blue, it's Tcheser Holmes raining down with detailed drum work and then the increasingly seer-like Ayewa drawing us into her confidences. 'Lágrimas Del Mar' is like Atlantic period Ornette sax and trumpet riffing off each other underpinned by bassist Luke Stewart who takes it up-tempo with considerable ease. The jousting between saxist Keir Neuringer and Navarro is a big highlight. 'Storm Came Twice' may be doom laden but what a wonderful opening it contains and we're into deep free-jazz territory for the first time. The anarchy is certainly appealing here when the band undo the fastenings as it were and the poetry from Ayewa which is perfect lets rip and provides the manual to free our minds. 'Water Meditation' opens with solo trumpet but it's again the poetry that grabs you by the heart strings most because it's moving. Love and revolution are the key sentiments of the whole album chased down by an almost Baptist sense of radical revival, shuddering heavy religion and apocalyptic prophesy all in one primed like a timebomb. 'Six Sounds' is a mini-masterpiece. A fantastic achievement and one of the albums of the year it's instantly clear. Stephen Graham

Tags: Albums and EPs

SWR Big Band, Magnus Lindgren and John Beasley with Joe Lovano, Bird Lives, ACT ****

I didn't think that I was going to like this record because it seemed on paper too all-star and contrived, museumsville perhaps, gathered round a centenary that fell last year and of course we know what happened last year…

Published: 14 Nov 2021. Updated: 19 days.

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I didn't think that I was going to like this record because it seemed on paper too all-star and contrived, museumsville perhaps, gathered round a centenary that fell last year and of course we know what happened last year…

… but I do dig it and the big C is not Covid but Charlie as in Parker. And I kept returning for second and third helpings on certain tracks. Parker, Bird to all, remains an endless fascination and is still a huge factor of inspiration for the new generation going by how many times his tunes pop up in London jam sessions and gigs week in week out. Probably my Bird highlight this year was when Tom Ollendorff's trio played the rarity 'Bongo Beep' at a gig back in May for example. So you're always learning when you step into Charlie Parker's world.

What we learn here is how voicings in orchestrated settings can find a new softness and velvety texture so it is a different view. That softness does not mean ersatz. And while there aren't any rarities that doesn't matter because the arranging is so fresh.

You'll also get some fine scatting, actually more like vocalese as the singer is taking on a horn line and replicating an improvisation, from Camille Bertault on 'Cherokee/Koko', Tia Fuller in her prime on 'Summertime', a lovely AfroCuban feel to 'Scrapple from the Apple' and much more.

The whole thing does not overpower which is a feat given the artillery of the German SWR (Südwestrundfunk) Big Band which in different hands could have been dull and lumpen.

Certainly if you are into arranging this is meant for you given the new hoops the Swedish saxophonist Magnus Lindgren and revered US pianist John Beasley put the charts through. Joe Lovano, Chris Potter and Miguel Zenón also crop up so there are lots of points of entry if you just want to concentrate on soloing but really it's the arranging that counts above all and it's not often that happens to steal the show. Christmas has come early for nerds into charts, Bird fans and big band fans alike. SG

Magnus Lindgren and John Beasley, top. Photo: Lena Semmelroggen