Palm of Soul
This album was recorded in Brooklyn on September 23, 2005, just weeks after New Orleans resident Kidd Jordan’s house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. It’s impossible to know how the disaster affected the music made this day, but if you’re looking for an album-length mournful wail, you won’t get it here. If anything, the seven improvised tracks show how the best jazz musicians can express qualities that are even more elusive than emotion.
Jordan’s tenor sax work here is at once rabid and gentle, hilarious and tragic. He exploits the full tonal range of his horn like few of his contemporaries, contrasting timbre, dynamics, texture and articulation with infinite variety. I go back and forth with William Parker, but here he’s splendid. His bass lines and arco work are unusually clean and eloquent; his contributions on the stringed guimbri are especially fine. Drummer Hamid Drake is his usual ultramusical self; treating jazz time like the continuum it is rather than a series of arbitrarily subdivided starts-and-stops.
Music is always about more than feelings. Jordan, Parker and Drake had a lot to feel sad about the day this was made. That this album expresses so much more is a tribute both to them and the power of improvised music.