By: Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition
Brian Lynch has been a top tier trumpeter for over four decades. He is also a voracious reader, with a particular interest in African American literature. For his first release as a big band leader, he has chosen to combine his reading interests into a musical project that honors many African American writers and scholars. His belief is that our ethnic differences are what makes our society vibrant and tolerant. Jazz is a musical “stew” that takes many musical genres, largely in an instrumental setting, to express creativity and open expression. Specifically, in this case, Lynch brings a blend of Afro-Caribbean, and Latin American rhythms (Brian has been active in the New York based Latin big band scene for years), with added contemporary music motifs.
Titled, The Omni-American Book Club: My Journey Through Literature in Music, this two CD set has each tune dedicated to two different African American authors, whose emphasis on social justice have had a profound influence on Brian’s social consciousness. These authors cover an extensive time period. They range from James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and W.E.B DuBois to present day authors, Toni Morrison and Ta-Nehisi Coates. From his teenage years onward, their writings helped him develop as a musical artist, blending the palettes of North and South America with African musical genres.
The title of this issue comes from the name of a book of essays by Albert Murray, that begins with this premise: “ethnic differences are the very essence of cultural diversity and natural creativity.” Lynch’s project succeeds in its vision with a joyous vibe that roars with the power that an all-star big band brings. When I say big band, I mean it. In various combinations, there are five trumpets, four trombones, five reeds (saxes, flute, and clarinets). The rhythm section is made up of piano, acoustic and electric bass, two drummers, and two percussionists. Guest artists include Donald Harrison, Dave Liebman, Regina Carter, and Jim Snidero. The primary band members are teaching colleagues, students, and alumni of the University of Miami, Frost School of Music. All tracks were composed and arranged by Brian.
From the get-go, Lynch blends hard driving themes with a pot-stirring urgency. “Crucible for Crisis” has Orlando “Maraca” Valle’s flute floating above the horns before guest drummer, Dafnis Prieto, takes center stage for an extended solo backed again by Valle. Lynch has a warm solo, before the melody switches to a Latin beat. Next is “The Struggle Is In Your Name,” written for Ta-Nehisi Coates and Albert Murray. It features altoist, Donald Harrison, and shows the strength of the band’s ensemble blowing, before Harrison trades solos with Brian. CD 2 has an extended version with even more room to stretch out.
“Affective Affinities” provides guest violinist, Regina Carter, an opportunity to show her violin prowess on a big band ballad. It’s a gorgeous tune that would be right at home on a late night dance floor scene in a Latin American movie.
Dave Liebman, on soprano sax, is featured on “The Trouble With Elysium.” Gary Keller, on tenor sax, matches Liebman in intensity as the two saxes trade solos. “Tribute to Blue (Mitchell)” honors one of my favorite unsung trumpeters, Blue Mitchell. Brian’s burnished tone along with guest altoist, Jim Snidero, take us on a magisterial musical journey. It parallels the move north by southern workers and musicians in the mid 20th century in search of both work and less discrimination.
“Africa My Land” on the second CD uses a 6/8 bell pattern, that per Lynch, is used throughout much of West Africa. Here, Murph Aucamp, on congas, sets this pattern in motion. Early on, Lowell Ringel has a fine bass solo, before Mike Brignola, on baritone sax has several bluesy choruses. Lynch then tears it up while the rest of the horns escalate.
“Woody Shaw,” written for the iconic trumpeter, and honoring Amiri Baraka and A.B. Spellman, covers a lot of ground. Baraka was a true renaissance man, writing poetry, drama, and fiction, as well as music criticism. He also wrote the liner notes for Woody’s 1979 Columbia Records album, Woody III. The second CD closes with an extended version of this track.
The liner notes in the gate fold CD package feature in depth descriptions of each tracks inspiration with Brian pointing out how each writer moved him. The pencil drawings, throughout the CD package, by Robin D. Williams, are a real treat.
This Brian Lynch project should elicit fascination as to how Lynch’s exploration of major African American writers have led to his stature as a musician and composer. One can easily see how this CD project could be used in an historical African American literature class.
Brian Lynch – trumpet; Michael Dudley, Jean Caze, Jason Charos, Alec Aldred – trumpets;
Dante Luciani, Carter Key, Steven Robinson, John Kricker – trombones
Tom Kelly, David Leon, Gary Keller, Chris Thompson-Taylor, Mike Brignola – saxes, clarinets, flute
Alec Brown – piano; Lowell Ringel – bass; Boris Kozlov – electric bass;
Kyle Swan & Hilario Bell – drums
Murph Aucamp, Little Johnny Rivero – percussionists
Guest Artists: Dafnis Prieto – drums; Orlando “Maraca” Valle – flute; Donald Harrison – alto sax;
Regina Carter – violin; David Liebman – soprano sax; Jim Snidero – alto sax
Crucible for Crisis
The Struggle Is In Your Name
The Trouble With Elysium
Inevitability And Eternity
Tribute to Blue (Mitchell)
Africa My Land
The Struggle Is In Your Name (extended version)
Woody Shaw (extended version)