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Let Freedom Ring! by Denys Baptiste

British tenor saxophonist Denys Baptiste and his large ensemble have crafted a hands-down winner here. His compositions and arrangements celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s famed 1963 civil rights movement oration, I Have a Dream. Essentially, Batiste is a powerful artist within a performing role and on this release, he surfaces as a visionary, where he fames the totality of the African-American experience into a multifarious brandishing of jazz music. Naturally, the distinct social and creative elements are closely aligned. With exquisite musical notions, highlighting gospel, modern jazz underpinnings, New Orleans style funeral dirges, Afro-Cuban and other relevant components, Baptiste’s arrangements ring loud and clear. It’s partly about clarity of thought morphed into a rock solid game-plan.

The saxophonist is a torrid soloist via his mood-evoking lines, while also conveying strong leadership throughout. Framed upon a horns, strings, guitars, keys and percussion based lineup, the musicians’ spin a modern vibe, while incorporating traditional jazz components into the grand schema. In addition, Baptiste perhaps symbolically, employs a multi-national cast of musicians, featuring Nigerian poet Ben Okri’s rendering of the text during various movements.

The presiding factor emanates from Dr. King’s unifying visions that ultimately pertain to mankind in general. So, Baptiste’s predominately melodic compositions are built upon the musicians’ call and response dialogues, vibrantly enacted choruses and alternating rhythmic patterns. On the title track, the band delves into a heated swing vamp amid vociferous background chatter offset by Baptiste’s yearning lines. And the ensemble injects shades of Duke Ellington into various passages. More importantly, Baptiste manages to revitalize the tried and true with a sound and mystique that conveys a rebirth of sorts. Nonetheless, this compelling affair imparts an impressionable chain of musical events. (Exuberantly recommended.... )

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Denys Baptiste
  • CD Title: Let Freedom Ring!
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Dune Records
  • Tracks: I Have A Dream, With This Faith, Let Freedom Ring!, Free At Last!
  • Musicians: Denys Baptiste Tenor Saxophone (UK/St Lucia;) Ben Okri spoken word (Nigeria;) Nathaniel Facey Alto Saxophone (UK/Jamaica;) Abram Wilson Trumpet (USA;) Trevor Mires Trombone (UK;) Omar Puente Violin (Cuba;) Jenny Adejayan Cello (Nigeria/Grenada;) Andrew McCormack Piano (UK;) Adam Goldsmith Guitar (UK;) Gary Crosby Double bass (UK/Jamaica;) Satin Singh Percussion (UK/India;) Rod Youngs Drums (USA.)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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