The Overcomer’s Suite
Saxophonist Jimmy Greene mounts an ambitious effort for his Nu Jazz debut with The Overcomer’s Suite, which is also the newly formed imprint’s inaugural release. Recorded live at Firehouse 12 in Greene’s hometown of Hartford, Conn., the 68-minute album is dominated by the four parts of the title suite, each of which exceeds 10 minutes in length. Even longer is the 15-minute opening piece, “Anthem of Hope,” described as a tribute to Ornette Coleman. Greene, who has previously recorded spirituals, describes the suite as depicting individuals who overcame daunting tasks, those individuals being his wife (“Nelba’s Victory”), his son (“Song for Isaiah”), Jesus Christ (“Gethsemane”) and David in his battle with Goliath (“David Undaunted”).
Minus these annotations, the music can be described as loosely structured bebop in which, even within a single track, there can be several sections going in surprising directions. For example, Greene only introduces a recognizable theme more than a minute and a half into “Anthem of Hope,” and then doesn’t keep much to it, preferring to go on soloing over, and at times against, the angular rhythm pattern kept up by pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Kendrick Scott. Similarly, “Nelba’s Victory” turns into a warm ballad only after three minutes of preliminary explorations. “Song for Isaiah” finds Greene switching from his usual tenor to soprano, but is dominated by Davis, while “Gethsemane” gives lengthy solos early and late to Curtis, with entirely new musical material introduced in between.
Thus, each tune is something of a suite unto itself. Whatever Greene’s lofty intentions, the music really demonstrates primarily that he has a small but talented combo of players who listen to each other and play effectively as an ensemble. (The album is being released “exclusively” as a digital download, although CDs are available “on demand” from the Web site www.nujazzentertainment.com.)