Andrew Rathbun's Affairs of State is a collection of compositions that the tenor saxophonist considers as his musical impressions of the failures of President George W. Bush's administration. Joined by trumpeter Taylor Haskins, pianist Gary Versace, bassist John Hebert, and drummer Mike Sarin, Rathbun's demanding post-bop pieces are full of tension, though his liner notes do little to help understand them, coming off as more of an angry diatribe. That's not to say that his music rambles like a typical Bush press conference. "We Have Nothing But Tears" is a haunting melody, as is the elegant, sorrowful "5th Anniversary" (written on the fifth anniversary of September 11, 2001). Rathbun and Haskins enrich one another's playing in the richly textured "Paint Peelings," while "Break the Chains" is a driving number, with the band progressing through all 12 keys in eight bars. This is compelling music, regardless of whether or not a listener buys into Andrew Rathbun's political views.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden