David Soldier

Aliens Took My Mom

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Another project from Dave Soldier's exploratory Mulatta label, this album features children from age two to nine performing free jazz. The kids were students of a jazz history course for youth in Brooklyn, and formed a small orchestra. With the help of Katie Down and Dave Soldier, they then composed a number of works of program music, detailing an epic wherein aliens invade the earth, kill all the humans, then themselves blow up (à la War of the Worlds to some extent). While much of the music is rather cacophonous as the players clash on their various instruments, it can also be brought back to a head with some surprisingly effective playing, a case in point being the rather touching title track performed by six-year-old Deja Schraemli on piano. It's an ethereal sound that would make Sun Ra proud, but the tone of the piece is really the showpiece, as Schraemli conveys grief so well through some sparse playing. The music is extremely reminiscent of the Art Ensemble of Chicago in large part, with an odd collection of instruments working together in a form that's more performance art than music in many respects. Still, the compositions are decently good, and even include a pair of works by others: Bach's "Minuet for Recorder and Violin," which is performed in a stereotypically scratchy "played-by-little-kids" style, and Sonny Rollins' "Twelve Bar Blues," played outstandingly by nine-year-old Makana McDonald. For an overall easy listen, this may not be the best album to look for. For a new (young) dimension in free jazz, though, it might be just the thing. Pick it up for the novelty value, and listen for the musical highlights.

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