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Sarah Elizabeth Charles: Free of Form (Stretch/Ropeadope)

Review of album by vocalist associated with trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

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Photo of Sarah Elizabeth Charles album Free of Form
Sarah Elizabeth Charles album Free of Form

Impeccable technical prowess providing the base for boldly uninhibited expression, all driving sharply shaped political and cultural views: It’s a combination as rare as it is thrilling, bringing to mind Betty Carter and Abbey Lincoln and, over the past half-decade, the neo-soul-meets-jazz fervor of Sarah Elizabeth Charles.

Charles’ progress has been significantly enriched in two ways: first, via her deepening symbiosis with trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, who coproduced and made guest appearances on her sophomore release, 2015’s Inner Dialogue, and does likewise here; and then there’s the oneness that she’s built alongside quartet-mates Jesse Elder (keyboards), John Davis (drums) and Burniss Earl Travis II (bass), since her 2012 debut, Red.

Free of Form, Charles’ first album devoted exclusively to original compositions, opens with what sounds like a deflating balloon, courtesy of Scott, before soaring to freedom-seeking heights. The skyward search continues with the title track, an impassioned quest for self-actualization, a theme expanded in the uplifting “Taller.” The metronomic plod of “March to Revolution” opens up to a rallying cry that evolves through the steadily intensifying “Change to Come”; “Zombie,” a searing condemnation of passivity; and the turbulent “The Struggle.” The message is powerful and profound and clear: Get involved, take a stand and thereby discover your best self.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Free of Form by Sarah Elizabeth Charles on iTunes.  



Originally Published