Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

WeFreeStrings: Love in the Form of Sacred Outrage (ESP-Disk’)

A review of the album that takes inspiration from fearless activists

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
WeFreeStrings: Love in the Form of Sacred Outrage (ESP-Disk’)
The cover of Love in the Form of Sacred Outrage by WeFreeStrings

From their name to their album title and the dedications of the compositions within, WeFreeStrings takes inspiration from fearless activists. The album’s title track is dedicated to civil-rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer. “Propagating the Same Type of Madness, that uh…” gets its title from a quote by slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. Most significantly, more than half of the album is taken up by “Baraka Suite,” a multi-hued 25-minute opus dedicated to the late poet Amiri Baraka.

Led by violist/composer Melanie Dyer (no relation to a country-pop singer with the same name), the group is largely a string ensemble. Bassist Ken Filiano and violinist Gwen Laster play throughout the album with Dyer, and the tracks that bookend the album add Charles Burnham (violin), Alexander Waterman (cello), and Michael Wimberly (drums). Free improvisation on strings is often marked by dissonant scrapes and squeals or sturm-und-drang dynamics, but WeFreeStrings avoids such trappings. The album’s one non-original track—“Pretty Flowers” by saxophonist Andrew “The Black” Lamb—even offers a tranquil pause where the trio lineup creates shimmering beauty.

The addition of Wimberly helps establish a groove in an early section of “Baraka Suite” and focuses the music. Throughout six movements, Dyer creates a piece that captures the spirit of its namesake. There are moments when each string player steps forward, but with no “solo” credits given, they serve to emphasize the whole rather than individual parts. Wimberly also adds an urgent push to Filiano’s elastic line in “Propagating.” The strings render the piece with a fire of the sort usually heard more in reeds and brass instruments. As they take turns delivering pointed statements, occasionally overlapping each other, the idea of jazz strings takes on a new identity.

Learn more about Love in the Form of Sacred Outrage at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!


Mike Shanley

Mike Shanley has been a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh and gladly welcomes any visitors to the city, most likely with a cup of coffee in one hand. Over the years, he has written for several alternative weekly papers and played bass guitar in several indie rock bands. He currently writes for the bi-weekly paper Pittsburgh Current and maintains a blog at