Angel Bat Dawid: Requiem for Jazz Album Review

Rumors of jazz’s demise have hung over the genre for decades. In 1960, the composer and filmmaker Edward Bland asked: “What, then, is the future of jazz? None. Jazz is dead!” His 1959 film the jazz scream he had argued that the genre’s structural elements, its recurring forms and chord changes, could not evolve. While Ornette Coleman simply dropped these restrictions in the same year The shape of jazz to comeBland saw the exhaustion of jazz’s fundamental musical materials as its end.

“If jazz is dead, why was there no funeral?” asks Angel Bat David. requiem for jazz, the latest album from the Chicago composer, clarinetist, and educator, is a requiem mass for jazz recorded 60 years after Bland’s film. The service was held at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in 2019 and featured Tha ArkeStarzz, a 15-piece instrumental ensemble, and Tha Choruzz, a four-person choir, along with dancers and visual artists. David’s 12 parts Requiemfrom the Introit to the Lux Aeterna, are adapted from the Roman Catholic liturgical Requiem Missal and paired with dialogues from The Scream of Jazz. Dawid later created interludes that sampled the performance and added his own voice, clarinet, and auto-tuned drum machines to create a sprawling 24-track opus designed to finally lay the genre to rest.

The death of jazz was not necessarily a tragedy. For Bland, the death of his body was necessary for his spirit to survive. The endlessly repeating jazz choruses represented a “future without a future,” the daily cyclical oppression of African-Americans, while the soloist’s melody crafting reaffirmed an “eternal present,” the constant improvisational creativity necessary for survive. the jazz scream He intersperses images of poverty in Chicago’s black neighborhoods with images of joyful church gatherings. “Jazz is dead because the bondage and suffering of the Negro have to die,” says the narrator. “Jazz is alive because the black spirit must endure.” Dawid directs the whole of him as a minister who has taken the Bland film as text. “Let me preach”, he proclaims in the interlude of “LACRIMOSA- Llorando a Nuestra Señora de los Dolores”. “In the movie, he said, ‘We made a memory of our past and a promise of everything to come.’ Guess what, I wasn’t born in 1959! Yo am the promise! Everyone on this stage is the promise!”

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Dawid’s ensemble laments the memory of jazz and exalts its promise in songs that range from melancholic ballads to angry martial chants and joyful improvisations. Throughout, they recount the role of jazz as a momentary suspension against systemic oppression, what Bland calls “the Negro’s response to America’s relentless attempts to annihilate him.” “KYRIE ELEISON- Lawd Hav’ Merci” is a slow dirge, a cappella except for subtle percussion, building from thick choral harmony into a wild lament for the “stolen children of Africa,” while “OFFERTURIUM -HOSTS- Humility” celebrates the apotheosis of the genre as “the one element in American life where whites should be humble to blacks” with a jaunty melody centered on a carefree piano solo by Dr. Charles Joseph Smith. The album’s climax, “AGNUS DEI- Jazz is Dead!” it’s a dramatic number in which strings and horns trade swirling melodies over labored percussion while the chorus sings that “Jazz’s body is dead/But the spirit is alive.”

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