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November 2004

Ted Sirota Rebel Souls
Breeding Resistance
Delmark Records

As one might suppose from the band name and record title, Sirota and his cohorts believe that artists should keep their audience's attention on the outrageous nature of contemporary politics, and that such a stance can make a difference. It is easy to remember other jazz artists who were once visible musical activists and who have now become less inclined to express themselves this way. So it's refreshing to hear young musicians with more on their minds than trying to play the fastest scales in town or dress like fashion models. Moreover, it is obvious that these players gain a strong emotional focus from their convictions, which carries the music to a higher level.

The fact that drummer/leader Sirota and the other Rebel Souls (trombonist Jeb Bishop, tenor saxophonist Geof Bradfield, guitarist Jeff Parker, and bassist Clark Sommers) are all steady, accomplished players who listen and combine well with one another doesn't hurt the cause, of course. Musically, these Rebels are actually fairly conservative, generally preferring to stay inside (though Parker does air a post-Sonny Sharrock approach to ensemble playing at times) and going for the kind of straightforward communication that behooves musicians trying to reach a general audience. Some of the originals stay with you, from nicely turned lines like "Saro-Wiwa" and "Knife" to the restless title track or the subtlety of "Elegy." But the strongest suit is the emotional commitment of the soloists.

Originally published in November 2004
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