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Black Art Jazz Collective: Armor of Pride (HighNote)

Review of second album by the hard-bop sextet

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Cover of Black Art Jazz Collective album Armor of Pride
Cover of Black Art Jazz Collective album Armor of Pride

What’s in a name? The Black Art Jazz Collective welcomes the question. The bristling hard-bop swagger of this all-black sextet of bandleaders and first-call sidemen sends a message as palpable as the Langston Hughes quote (about the “duty of the younger negro artist”) that’s set beside Cheryl Pelt’s breakdown of jazz as a historical tool for emotional relief and rebellion in the liner notes to Armor of Pride.

Because it features a phalanx of horns (trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, tenor Wayne Escoffery, trombonist James Burton III) and is powered by the sharp accents and brilliant fills of drummer Johnathan Blake, the BAJC is easily likened to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Since all six members were established, respected musicians before joining the group (pianist Xavier Davis and bassist Vicente Archer complete the lineup) and nearly everyone contributes to the all-original song list, the Cookers are another kindred spirit.

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