CD review: Joseph Herbst Sextet – This Is Our Environment 2021: Video, CD cover

The very title of the album suggests that it is not only about the music. And indeed it is. A composer and saxophonist from North Carolina, a graduate of the University of Michigan, Joseph Herbst considers the most important thing in his life to be an active struggle for environmental protection, and he interprets this concept extremely broadly. And music for him is only a means in order to convey his views, his pain to as many people as possible.

This was fully manifested in his debut album This Is Our Environment, recorded by Joseph’s sextet with the involvement of a large group of guests. Seven of the fourteen compositions are just speech, sounding against one or another musical background, composed by Joseph. He asked four different people the same question: “What is environmental protection to you?” and set their answers to music.

The other half of the album is jazz pieces performed by Herbst’s sextet, often with the involvement of vocalist Aubrey Johnson, but again related to different aspects of the same problem. Solastalgia tells about the sad fate of the tiny Pacific island state of Nauru, whose whole life was built on phosphate mining, which practically destroyed the natural nature of the island. Is this my fault? talks about the problems of people forced to live in places with highly polluted water. Iron Eyes has a more optimistic story: it is about the Sioux Indians who got the federal government to refuse to lay an oil pipeline through their territory.

The final composition Visions of Freedom carries the idea that no one can feel free individually until all the inhabitants of our planet are free. These environmental and social issues Herbst raises, performing close to the mainstream, very high-quality jazz, where, as a rule, Herbst himself and the second horn of the sextet, trumpet player Ewen Taylor, in interaction with the rhythm group and, first of all, pianist Luther Ellison, perform the solo. The album is unusual in its theme, but in itself the jazz of Herbst’s sextet evokes no less respect for its quality than the views of its leader.

  1. They Say There Are Beautiful Trees
  2. Momma Nature
  3. Solastalgia
  4. Mama E
  5. Is this my fault?
  6. Erring of the Revolution Pt. 1
  7. Make No Cents
  8. Erring of the Revolution Pt. 2
  9. Iron Eyes
  10. LEGACY
  11. Estrange Us
  12. Communion
  13. Simple Life
  14. Visions of Freedom

Joseph Herbst- as,ss; Evan Taylor – tp, flg; Luther S. Allison – p, Rhodes; Zach McKinney – dr; Peter Martin – g; Liany Mateo – b; with Aubrey Johnson – voc (tks 1,3,5,7,9,12); Dasan Ahanu (tk 2), Cynthia ‘THiA’ Sharpe (tk 4), Yexandra ‘Yex’ Diaz (tks 6,8), RaShad Eas (tks 10, 12, 13) – spoken word.

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