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Celestial Communication Orchestra: HR57 I

By the time vocalist Ijeoma Thomas begins reciting Congressional Resolution HR-57, which proclaims jazz a national treasure, on the tune “HR-57 I” you have been officially forewarned that Alan Silva’s legendary Celestial Communication Orchestra is about to get overtly political. Maybe their latest release, the four-CD HR-57, should be called musical performance as lobbying. Thomas’ voice, a clear, expressive instrument on its own, is followed gamely to perfection by the other 22 members of the orchestra throughout “HR-57 I.”

At no time on “HR-57 I,” or anywhere else on this collection-length composition, do you feel that any of the players have overstepped their boundaries and placed their individuality before the mission to make a forceful statement about jazz music. This spirit is evident as well on “Amplitude III,” which begins with boisterous piano work that embraces pieces of the old and the new (Fats Waller or Cecil Taylor come to mind) but is ultimately a concerted group effort of straightforward grandeur. In the liner notes, pianist Matthew Goodheart describes the music produced by the orchestra as “tremendously honest music.” There can be no argument with Goodheart’s assessment either. Silva’s slow-developing composition will seem like an artist painting an abstract mural at times.

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