Let me recommend three records that can help you celebrate the life work and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers (upper square, lower right)
This four-disk, Pulitzer Prize-winning set looks back at the titular time period and ahead to the massive work we still have to do. In 19 pieces composed across 35 years, trumpeter Smith, his celebrated Golden Quartet, and Southwest Chamber Music tap into the danger, gravity, turbulence, and intensity and purity of focus that defined the Civil Rights Movement. Almost five hours in length, the set is never less than absorbing. Special props to the dual drummers of the Quartet: Pheeroan akLaff and Susie Ibarra.
Click here to sample an excerpt of the composition “Martin Luther King, Jr: Memphis, the Prophecy,” the set’s coda.
Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee (upper square, lower left)
Two hornmen dialogue about oppression, freedom and resistance in the Chihuahuan Desert, at the site of Magee’s mysterious sculpture near Cornudas, Texas. The recording has the character of a religious service and includes the ambient noise of the place. One of the best records of 2019.
Click here to sample the track “Sometimes Yes, Sometimes No” (McPhee is in the left stereo channel, Butcher in the right).
Ustad Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
Saami, a Palestinian, is the last living practitioner of a pre-Islamic music (featuring elements of Farsi, Hindi, Vedic, and Sanskrit) that does not endear him to local extremists. His practice is a testament to courage, belief, and devotion–and it sounds fascinating and moving (and good, to be sure): a kind of Middle Eastern Gregorian chant with tense instrumental backing.
Click here to sample a track and read more about Saami’s background.
Click here for an album “teaser.”
Quick Takes on My Other Listening Adventures
James Brown: Foundations of Funk–A Brand New Bag 1964-1964
Brown at his finest, on tracks that are gripping and propulsive not even considering his vocals, which are punctuated by screams that sound as avant-garde as Ayler’s honks.
Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow
Though I found myself enjoying “Comeback Kid,” I just don’t have patience for whites people miserably moaning right now.
That title’s enticing, and the music’s admirable intense when the guitarist isn’t taking a turn; fortunately, the leader’s sax, Quin Kirchner’s drums and the compositions (!) win the day.
JLin: Black Origami
This landmark of EDM and the style known as footwork has spell-casting power: normally immune to such stuff, I’ve played it 20-25 times since its 2017 release and it mesmerizes and mesmerizes, even though I’m too old and not imaginative enough to dance to it.
Synth music is back–even in the Sahara (try it–you’ll like it)!