Having immersed himself in Delta blues on his acclaimed 2016 album, Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground, young tenor star Noah Preminger makes a sideways move into American protest music on his latest conceptual effort, Meditations on Freedom. Nearly 60 years after Sonny Rollins recorded his celebrated Freedom Suite with Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach, Preminger touches on themes that are no less pressing and relevant now than they were then.
Though he teams up with ace trumpeter Jason Palmer, who with his tight, propulsive sound is perfectly matched to the tenorist, Preminger strives with his pianoless quartet for the stripped-down immediacy of Rollins’ trio. These timely meditations on civil and human rights, the women’s movement and the endangered planet unfold in high reflective mode. Part of their power comes from the holding in of anger and bitterness and the holding out of hope.
In addition to originals in the protest tradition, including the bright, shuffling “We Have a Dream” and the mournful “Broken Treaties,” Meditations boasts personal covers of iconic tunes. A funereal take on Bob Dylan’s “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” which the singer performed at the March on Washington in 1963, features Preminger’s gutsy, modern-tinged playing. Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” is rendered with soulful delicacy. George Harrison’s “Give Me Love” is given a jaunty reading highlighted by lively crossing patterns. Throughout, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman have an unusually fluid presence. At times, the band recalls Old and New Dreams, lifted by Froman’s melodic debt to Ed Blackwell.Originally Published