Monarch Headlines Fall Music2

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Wadada Leo Smith Rosa Parks: Pure Love. An Oratorio of Seven Songs (TUM Records)

Venerable trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith continues to release utterly original, masterfully constructed music with cogent emotional and spiritual power. His new oratorio paying homage to civil rights hero Rosa Parks features three vocalists accompanied by a string quartet, trumpet quartet, drum set, and electronics. Smith incorporates excerpts from his early recordings with Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins, and Steve McCall, weaving histories of American creative music and civil rights together in a mighty bond, a definitive declaration that artistic expression is inextricably linked to historical events and our larger world. With Rosa Parks, Smith adds another major work to his already significant canon, taking listeners on a harrowingly affecting journey through some of the darkest and brightest corners of our nation’s history and affirming the heroism of Parks, the power of art, and our common bond as human beings.

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Lucas Pino’s No Net Nonet That’s a Computer (Outside in Music)

In her sophomore release New York-based vocalist and composer Annie Chen expands the jazz palette with global influences including Eastern Europe folk, traditional music from her native Asia, and even the Italian sonnet. Her international octet featuring guitar, violin, saxophone, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums shines in her innovative and sophisticated compositions. Chen’s voice soars through lyrically charged melodies, Balkan and Middle Eastern- inspired lines, complex rhythms, and thrilling improvisations. With Secret Treetop, Chen gives us a first-rate vocal jazz album, one that both honors and transcends the genre.

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Brad Whiteley Presence (Destiny Records)

For his eleventh release as a leader, acclaimed saxophonist and MacArthur “genius” Miguel Zenón enlists the Chicago- based Spektral Quartet for a new original concert-length chamber work. Decidedly modern yet drawing on cultural- folkloric traditions of the saxophonist’s native Puerto Rico, the piece features eight movements for saxophone and string quartet which demonstrate Zenón’s trademark compositional intricacy. The suite shimmers with rhythmic complexity, buoyant melodies, innovative technical feats, and emotional depth. Spektral Quartet plays with precision and aplomb, providing a satisfying complement to the dulcet grace and power of Zenón’s horn.

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Mark Lomax II 400: An Afrikan Epic (CFG Multimedia)

Drummer, composer, and educator Mark Lomax has created an original piece of music tracing the history of Black America. In its depth, breadth, and impact, the twelve-album cycle, released to mark the four-hundredth anniversary of the transatlantic slave trade, is nothing short of epic. It’s the fortieth addition to an impressive discography for Lomax, who just happened to turn forty this year. A labor of love, 400 contains three spectacular, stylistically diverse suites. With influences from African traditional to Western classical music, and featuring elemental percussion, stirring narration, the Urban Art Ensemble, a cello quartet, and an outstanding jazz quartet, Lomax’s monumental work is both a visceral rendering of a deeply problematic history and a celebration of a people’s resilience, genius, and future. It’s a remarkable piece of work brimming with passion and intelligence, one whose power and insight resonates long after the final drumbeats cease.

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Jason Palmer Rhyme and Reason (Giant Step Arts)

The Toronto-based trio’s former albums contained pieces with such eccentric inspirations as the sound of a clothes dryer. On their fourth outing, their creatively expansive Muse continues to be in evidence, with influences including shoegaze and hard rock, little wooden mallet instruments, and Igor Stravinsky. All this, along with the creative chemistry of keyboardist Chris Donnelly, bassist Dan Fortin, and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Ernesto Cervini, amounts to a cohesive sound that grabs listeners with its quietly compelling self-assuredness. This is meditative, mesmerizing music filled with exceptional playing, fresh compositions, and sonic details that delight.