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The Jazz Poetry Ensemble – "Motherless Acoustivore"

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by Andrew Patton on August 30, 2016

As we highlighted in May, next week’s 2016 Hot Times Kate Schulte Tribute boasts an amazing lineup of jazz heavyweights playing 4 concerts and a workshop over a 5-day span. The 5th annual tribute marks the occasion with five international jazz heroes: artist-in-residence emeritus Kidd Jordan, returning artists Hamiet Bluiett, D.D. Jackson, and Marlon Jordan, and Oliver Lake making his debut appearance. Click here for the full schedule. In conjunction with this local tour of breathtaking live jazz, The Jazz Poetry Ensemble, which is celebrating its own 30 year anniversary, is again releasing a recording from the previous year’s tribute. Motherless Acoustivore documents a spontaneously composed tribute performance at Natalie’s in September 2015, which featured legendary saxophonists Kidd Jordan and Hamiet Bluiett with the Jazz Poetry Ensemble. The CD is now available to order, and downloads will be available soon. Keep reading for thoughts on a beautifully challenging piece of work.

The Jazz Poetry Ensemble’s sound is a spontaneous yet well-distributed mix of classic jazz concepts, free jazz playing, and thought-provoking poetry, and that mix grows more and more complex when guests are added to the recipe. Opening track “Here” showcases these elements from the start, as Jordan’s tenor sax, Bluiett’s baritone sax, and bandleader Michael Vander Does’ trombone swirl peacefully and freely before Vander Does paints a picture of a moment in time. The title track finds Jordan recalling the melody of “Motherless Child” throughout the tune, sandwiching a soulful groove powered by bassist Roger Hines and drummer Roger Myers that served as an apt backdrop for the rest of the ensemble’s explorations.

Vander Does pays tribute to Gil Scott Heron while illustrating a terrifying vision of a not-too-distant dystopian future on “The Repression Will Not Be Televised” while the ensemble finds an appropriately chaotic sound. With a nod to the host venue, “Coal-Fired Pizza At The End Of The Universe” opens warmly and melodically, returning to the theme of “Motherless Child,” before gradually expanding and exploding into shrieking vibrant colors, with Brett Burleson’s sinewy guitar a particular highlight. The nearly 20-minute “Do Lions And Tigers Get Hairballs” explores a less glamorous side of beasts of the jungle before the snarl of Burleson’s guitar joins the cries of Jordan’s sax. The tune soon gains momentum and participants, growing to a loping free-for-all that twists and turns and twists again, coming to a close with a triumphant chorus.

Motherless Acoustivore excellently documents the meeting of two inimitable saxophone titans and a top-notch free jazz ensemble, developing their material on stage. The playing and poetry combine to examine the confusion of the modern world while the interwoven theme of a traditional spiritual maintains a connection to a shared history. This album is certainly worth your own exploration, and is a great preview of the new performances that will spring from next week’s tribute concerts.

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