Thursday, October 30, 2014

Darius Jones, The Oversoul Manual

Darius Jones has impressed me with his very together, accomplished avant alto saxaphone work. We took a look at a wonderful duet he did with Matt Shipp earlier this year (type "Jones" in the search box above for that). Now he comes to us on his own in a very different context: an a capella vocal work for a quartet of female voices, the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit, in the fourth part of Jones' Man'ish Boy cycle, entitled The Oversoul Manual (AUM Fidelity 091).

It is conceived as a "sacred alien birthing ritual" via an interrelated presentation of 15 parts. For this work Jones creates his own vocabulary of an imagined alien people. The quartet sings in a kind of ritualistic new music style, which in part comes out of Jones' roots singing in church in Virginia in his youth but beyond as well into avant realms.

The composition has more of a new music ambiance than typical of avant jazz, but that is only to say that Maestro Jones comes to us as a composer rather than an improvisor (and of course one could say rightly that improvisation is spontaneous composition. Very true that is. But this is new music first and foremost.).

Kudos for vocalists Sarah Martin, Jean Carla Rodea, Amirtha Kidambi and Kristen Slipp for their fine work here. This is music that demands ritual drama, a certain precision and pitch exactness though the parts can be difficult to execute. The Elizabeth-Caroline Unit give us a strong performance throughout.

The music is original and very moving, though you might need to listen a few times to get on its wave length. The birth of "Man'ish Boy" is an important event in the ongoing story, but it is also about the truth that comes to us beyond words, embedded in musical form.

Bravo! Jones is an innovative force on the New York contemporary scene. This work confirms it in the best way. Listen to this one!

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