Chris Washburne

Land of Nod

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The "Land of Nod" that Chris Washburne refers to in the title of his most deliberately incendiary CD to date is of course, America, where in the trombonist's view, the people simply refuse to be awakened to what is being done to them by the callous, arrogant powers-that-be in Washington and the boardrooms. In order to illustrate this state of mind, Washburne gathers together his swinging Latin jazz band Syotos and unleashes a sometimes riotous amalgam of Latin jazz forms thrown for a loop with dissonant riffs. The dissonance is intentional, as if to warn us that something is off-kilter, out of harmony, off-balance, in America. The use of dissonance in Latin jazz is most certainly not new -- it goes back to Stan Kenton's experiments, if not further -- but it is still unusual; the perceived nature of Latin jazz as happy music to move your body to has held fast over the decades. Some of the titles of the tunes refer to the cover art, a flag whose colors are faded and pallid, whose shapes are distorted. Others are more explicitly political (the raging "Op-Ed," the oppressive opening to "Guantanamo") and one section, "Gregory, Don't Go Near the Dances," a downtempo ballad based on a Ukrainian folk song, is a nod -- pun intended -- to Washburne's brothers-in-arms in Ukraine. Lest we think that Washburne is just a prophet of gloom and anger, in the tradition of many a musico-political work, he concludes his suite with hope -- not one but two pieces titled "Peace," by Ornette Coleman and Horace Silver, respectively. Add Chris Washburne to the short but distinguished list of jazz folks whose art occasionally erupts in protest: Charlie Haden, Carla Bley, Max Roach, and certainly Coleman come to mind.

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