April 20, 2024

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CD review: Black Art Jazz Collective – Truth To Power – 2024: Video, CD cover

For it’s 10th anniversary release, the Black Art Jazz Collective (BAJC), hailed by DownBeat Magazine as “a powerhouse of contemporary jazz talent,” offers ten exciting and unique works that speak to both artistic freedom and musical sensibility relative to the tenor of our times.

The band features an all-star line-up, including founding members Wayne Escoffery, Jeremy Pelt, James Burton III, Xavier Davis and Johnathan Blake who are joined by current members Victor Gould, Rashaan Carter and Mark Whitfield Jr. Wayne Escoffery tells us, “I formed Black Art Jazz Collective as an ensemble of African American musicians, celebrating Black culture and the origins of the music through original compositions with unapologetic pride.”

In nearly every sense of the word, democracy reigns on Ascension. The Black Art Jazz Collective is an evenly balanced sextet, three in the rhythm section and three horns up front. And apart from Jackie McLean’s “Twin Towers,” that equanimity is almost shared in the compositions and solos.

Pianist Victor Gould’s ostinato on the album’s title tune is an invitation to his cohort to show their wares, and saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt eagerly oblige, the contours of their creativity never far from Gould’s harmonic layers or drummer Mark Whitfield Jr.’s rippling tempi. On “Involuntary Servitude,” there’s a full ensemble effect that’s topped off by Whitfield’s rapid-fire conclusion; Pelt’s power and imagination, as elsewhere, are ever-present spices.

“No Words Needed” is the shortest tune here and the only ballad, but it lacks none of BAJC’s togetherness, the band being gifted with a resonance that characterized Miles Davis’ prime ’60s quintets. Think ESP. Better yet, think BAJC, because the ensemble has an eye on tradition, a feel for the past’s turbulence and a way of looking back as they forge ahead. It’s something their Afrocentric forebears called “sankofa.”

1 Black Heart
2 The Fabricator
3 Truth to Power
4 It’s Alright
5 Coming of Age
6 Dsus
7 Code Switching
8 Soliloquy (For Sidney Poitier)
9 Lookin’ for Leroy
10 Blues on Stratford Road

Wayne Escoffery (tenor saxophone),
Jeremy Pelt (trumpet),
Josh Evans, Wallace Roney Jr (trumpets on track 3),
James Burton III (trombone),
Xavier Davis (piano on tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 9 & 10),
Victor Gould (piano on tracks 3, 6, 7 & 8),
Vicente Archer (bass tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 9 & 10),
Rashaan Carter (bass on tracks 3, 6, 7 & 8),
Johnathan Blake (drums tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 9 & 10),
Mark Whitfield Jr (drums tracks 3, 6, 7 & 8)

Black Art Jazz Collective - Truth to Power - Amazon.com Music

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