Does it all come down to the mighty dollar? The cynic says "of course" and the optimist knows it does but prays for change. Nothing new under the sun yet that sun shines every day meaning there's always the opportunity for change. One has to be brave these days just to get out of bed but if you just pull the covers over your head, the ones in power take that as a vote of confidence. No one says this world is supposed to make sense.
Anyway, music and family remain my balm in bad times. Always has, Expect they always will. Have a great New Year, let your voice be heard (whether you are pro or con), and keep your communities going!
The album opens with the traditional "Witness", the clarion call of the cornet and the lows notes of the contralto clarinet leading Herring in. When Lossing enters, the music takes on deeper gospel hues. When Knuffke steps out to "testify", he's supported by Goldberg's low lines and Lossing's impressionist piano chords. The clarinet solo is emotionally rich leading to a far-ranging piano solo playing variations on the melody. When Herring returns, he responds to the higher energy level with a even more powerful vocal.
original version, from 1971, is basically voice and drums but here Herring opens by reciting the lyrics while the musicians "free-associate" around him. As the piece tumbles forward, Herring sings in a call-and-response with Knuffke while Lossing and Goldberg dance around them. Following Sun Ra is Verdi's "Iago's Credo" (from "Otello"). Herring stays close to the handsome melody as the cornet, contralto clarinet and piano improvise around him. The musicians capture the emotion in the vocal, sometimes matching the energy while, other times, they step back to allow the voice to stand out.
Knuffke sets poems by contemporary poet Kirby Congdon and the late Carl Sandburg to music. Sandburg's work, "Subway" is a short blues chant that rides forward on the rhythmical lines of cornet and clarinet joined on the second verse by the piano. The energy and interactions give the music such urgency that the song ends much too soon.
From beginning to end, "Witness" is a fascinating recording. There's so much music here, four voices working together to create a unified message. Music crosses so many borders, so many walls, religions, politics, and much more. This mix of gospel, poetry, popular songs, opera, creative music and spirited improvisations is often stunning yet will make smile all the way through. Kirk Knuffke, Steven Herring, Ben Goldberg, and Russ Lossing made magic in the studio and we are the beneficiaries.
For more information, go to www.kirkknuffke.com.
Here's a taste of the Sun Ra piece:
|Cover Art: Damon Locks|
"Greg Ward Presents Rogue Parade" is the latest installment in the musician's maturity as a composer and bandleader. He's been busy since returning to Chicago, adding his saxophone to many different ensembles and recordings (including 2018's Benje Daneman's Searchparty "Light in the Darkness"). Greg Ward is making great strides and we are lucky to be part of the experience!
For more information, go to www.gregward.us.
Here's an action-packed tune: