“We’re living in the present, and there are pressing issues that are happening to us personally,” stated bassist Luke Stewart of the free-jazz outfit Irreversible Entanglements during a rare interview with ShadowProof a couple of years back. “And those are things that need to be addressed. And are going to be addressed naturally, especially in an improvisational context, where it’s based on our life experiences and our perspectives and activities that we’re involved in.”
This free jazz combustible outfit, made up of members from Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York, met during a Musicians Against Police Brutality concert in 2015 protesting the murder of Akai Gurley by an NYPD officer. Fast-forward to 2017, the International Anthem label and New Jersey punk label Don Giovanni jointly released their self-titled début album.
Fortified by MC/poet Camae Ayewa, aka Moor Mother, saxophonist Keir Neuringer, trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, bassist Luke Stewart, and drummer Tcheser Holmes these musicians gave flight to Ayewaʻs words-filled with bang-up agitation and seething anguish-via shuttering bass patterns, thundering ornate percussion accents, and call to arms horn charts.
In return, her lyrics frame the tempo of a world gone deceitful. This punk-rocking application to jazz, with cut /bleed precision, fluctuates in timbre over the course of five pummeling tracks, making Who Sent You?, the bands’ second release, a timely soundtrack alerting US of the hellscape Covid-19 has unleashed unto Mother Earth.
Does anybody want a cheap Carnival Cruise ship? I know of one in Oakland. Asking for an Oligarch.
Remember, Katrina, displacing the heart of New Orléans, hard-working black and brown folk, while the same type of constituency gave way to Casinos being built on graves of the disenfranchised. Blocking the natives from returning en masse.
As explained in the liner notes: “this album functions as a heat-sealed care package for the modern Afrofuturist’s pre-flight machinations.”
Ayewaʻs narrative—beginning with her intense first muttering, “Stay onnit,” from opener “The Code Noir/Amina”—gets into your essence immediately… Amiri Barakaʻs overt rebellion fertilized throughout. The jarring, stop and go musical accompaniments moves wildly. It’s a Fellini soundtrack on meth. Between the Ornette Coleman avant-free-funk mode and dead-on Sun Ra (RIP Danny Ray Thompson) cosmic theatrics, these young players prove early on, theyʻre operating within a context. Extending a tradition.
Uneasiness, brought on by Black trauma, commands the narrative of Who Sent You?, giving insight into how it feels to take up space in America, with dark pigmentation, always making you a suspect, awaiting the next attack from either the wide-awake right-wing conservatives AND the unconscious million-dollar home owning liberals, perpetually blinded by their Silicon Valley opulence.
Also on “The Code Noir/Amina,” Moor Mother, expressing the frustration of this daily race-chess-hopscotch game we play, observing the lines of gentrification closing in, asks “At what point do we stand up?” After taking a pause and reloading that sentiment with rage, she follows with “At what point do we give a shit?”
We got a couple of months of self-distancing to answer that.