Jeremy Pelt: trumpet
Wayne Escoffery: tenor saxophone
James Burton III: trombone
Xavier Davis: piano
Vicente Archer: bass
Johnathan Blake: drums
Formed by a cross-section of contemporary jazz's leading voices, the Black Art Jazz Collective has a simple goal as political as it is salutary: create a platform for artists of the same generation to collaborate musically and promote the recognition of African-American cultural and political figures.
Comprised of Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), James Burton III (trombone), Xavier Davis (piano),Vicente Archer (bass), and Jonathan Blake (drums), the BAJC hearkens back to similar creative groups established at various points in jazz's history, and is clearly designed to highlight the impressive instrumental and compositional chops each member possesses, while underscoring the inherently collaborative methodologies of jazz. The track titles also reveal a deliberate reference to the deeply entwined history of jazz and the African-American civil rights movement.
Dedicated to W.E.B Dubois, the opening "Double Consciousness" sets the stage with a mid-tempo composition that pits saxophone and trumpet lines against each, showcasing the two artists' solo capacities, while the ensemble provides a strong backbone. The album also features two compositions honoring Barack Obama "Awaiting Change" and "No Small Change." The first offers a memorable opening melody which each horn player then takes in their own direction over a lilting rhythm that keeps the piece moving and portrays the arc of Obama's rise with penetrating high notes and soaring lines that evoke the promise, elation, and excitement his presidency brought forward. The second dedication is a reflective affair featuring a lovely bass solo by Archer and series of contemplative solos by the other band mates. Other titles include "Essence of Beauty," a slow burning ballad, "Salvador Da Bahia," a crisp, tense composition referencing the first slave port in the Americas, and the rhythmically propulsive, serpentine album highlight "The Shadower."
An intriguing debut grounded in a clear philosophy, the first release from the Black Art Jazz Collective projects a clear collective sound. It will be interesting to see where the group takes its vision next. (Franz A. Matzner)