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April 2000

Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls
Propaganda
Naim Label

If the purpose of propaganda is to further one's cause, drummer Ted Sirota has made me a believer. His second album as a leader, Propaganda, is brimming with bracing ideas, from the ska jumper "Geronimo's Free," featuring Ryan Shultz's bulky bass trumpet, to the lightly Latin, '70s fusion groover "La Danse de Janvier," where both Rick Gehrenebeck's Fender Rhodes and Jeff Parker's guitar are so satin smooth that their notes blend and bend into an amorphous whole.

Parker and cornetist Rob Mazurek also play in the Chicago Underground Duo and Isotope 217 and those groups' abstract cool informs much of Propaganda. Mazurek has a lean sound, often tightened further by a mute, and favors gorgeously small melodic statements instead of long winding (or winded) tales, while the always impressive Parker plays partially clipped post-bop chords that are then abstracted through subtle rhythmic variations, as well as jittery melodic lines that don't so much dance as wiggle. "Carolyn's Blues" shares a chord sequence similar to "My Favorite Things" and a lightly swinging feel that gives way to the slightly messy, free-for-all title track. But the ballad "Lonely People" rights things with saxophonist Kevin Kizer and bassist Noel Kuppersmith giving the tune its pathos-laden emotional mooring through their film noirish interplay.

Throughout the CD, Sirota plays with an effortless touch, giving the songs and the musicians plenty of space to breathe and narrate their tales. All of which makes this Propaganda very convincing.

Originally published in April 2000
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