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Sharpe, Avery: Sojourner Truth -

Born in Valdosta, Georgia in 1954, renowned jazz bassist Avery Sharpe has quite an impressive CV. Originally a pianist, Sharpe took to the acoustic bass in college. Over the past few decades, he's played with a host of equally respected musicians, including Pat Metheny, Archie Shepp, Art Blakey, and most notably, McCoy Tyner for almost twenty years. With Sojourner Truth: '…Ain't I a Woman, he and his ensemble craft exquisite jazz instrumentals laced with occasional vocals and plenty of historical significance.

Specifically, the record finds Sharpe paying tribute to Sojourner Truth, an African American abolitionist and woman's rights activist. The disc includes compositions based on her life and her famous 1851 speech "Ain't I a Woman." Joining Sharpe here is the Jazz Sextet, which features drummer Yoron Israel, pianist Onaje Allen Gumbs, trumpeter Duane Eubanks, vocalist Jeri Brown, and saxophonist Craig Handy.

"Isabella's Awakening" starts things off with some very tasteful piano work with accompanying horns, percussion, and bass. The way each instrument gets its moment in the sun as the piano keeps everything together is great, and overall the arrangement feels warm, lively, and very freeing. Interestingly, it seems like Sharpe is drawing from the same pool as Frank Zappa did for his genre-laden selections. Near the end, things become more convulsive, which makes its conclusion enticing.

Elsewhere, "Bomfree" incorporates some fusion-esque motifs, while "Virtuous She Is" silky smooth in melodies and transitions. As for Brown's vocal complements, they're hit or miss, to be honest. Although "Ain't I a Woman" succeeds due to its poetic free verse and attitude, other pieces, like "Motherless Child," "Pleading For My People," and "Son of Mine," find her damn near bellowing her words in a register too low for its own good. In fact, her voice often feels like it's in conflict with the music because of how unmelodic it is. While this is a bit distracting, it's not severe enough to significantly damper the experience.

Like with all traditional jazz, Sojourner Truth will polarize listeners. If you're a fan of the genre, you'll undoubtedly enjoy what's offered here; however, if jazz usually isn't your thing, this record won't be, either. In any case, Sharpe proves once again that he can assemble a talented crew and get the most out of their skills, as the music here is very enjoyable and pristine. Of course, the historical inspiration and humble aspiration grants the group some extra applause.

Track Listing:


1. Isabella's Awakening
2. Motherless Child
3. Bomfree
4. Ain't I a Woman
5. Truth Be Told
6. Pleasing for My People
7. Virtuous She Is
8. The Way Home
9. Son of Mine
10. NYC 1800's
11. Catch the Sunset

Added: April 23rd 2013
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Score:
Related Link: Official Site
Hits: 1155
Language: english

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