The sophomore album from Jerome Jennings further crystallizes the rising-star drummer’s concept of bandleading, framing it within a clearly comprehensible matrix of social justice. Addressing the experiences of African-American women through the lenses of the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, it presents an increased focus on original compositions while featuring the same sharp stick work and arranging savvy that made 2016’s The Beast a standout debut.
With his wife, poet and scholar Naomi Extra, to thank for his theme, Jennings goes to work uncovering stories too often ignored while elevating brave heroes through musical action. The soulful “Recy’s Lament” honors Recy Taylor, who took a bold stand after being raped by six white men in 1944. A charged “The Theory of Difference,” opening on a riveting bass intro from Christian McBride, nods to writer Audre Lorde, a pioneer in voicing issues surrounding race, sexuality, and gender. “Pay It No Mind,” marching in to Jennings’ cadence before embracing an understated hipness, salutes transgender trailblazer Marsha P. Johnson. And “Convo with Senator Flowers” finds the leader percussively painting along to a recording of Arkansas Senator Stephanie Flowers’ speech lashing out against a Stand Your Ground bill.
Solidarity offers opportunities to hear Jennings in open spaces—on the solo miniature title track and pulse-grounded “Heart”—but he’s just as quick to showcase his colleagues, be it on one of his tributes or through sympathetic covers like a genre-blurring “Be-Bop,” upbeat “I Love Your Smile,” and tender “You Are Never Far Away from Me.” With guests like bassist Endea Owens, saxophonist/flutist Tia Fuller, and vocalist/saxophonist Camille Thurman working alongside McBride, pianist Zaccai Curtis, and trumpeter Josh Evans (among others), Jennings clearly practices the same solidarity that he preaches.
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