Allen Lowe & Orchestra X

New Tango '92: After Astor Piazzolla (Or the Second Assassin)

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Allen Lowe is one of the most astute jazz musicians on the planet in that he understands something primary about music: that it is part of culture, the grit and grime of it as well as the elegance and charity it can supply. He's a political cat in that he understands that music is never really free of ideology. This suite and its one or two extra tracks are a cultural attempt to courteously send up the middle finger to the would-be new traditionalist fascists, of which include, at the time this was recorded, Wynton and his cronies, who are most definitely the establishment emissaries of what jazz used to be. Lowe's band, who includes the late trumpeter Doc Cheatham (who was in his late eighties at the time this was recorded) and the late vanguard composer and saxophonist Julius Hemphill, have recorded a suite that employs not necessarily tango thematics, but its drama and melodic sensibilities. Lowe's saxophone playing has been deeply affected by the bandoneon of Astor Piazzolla, in addition to his many and varied jazz influences. This is not an academic suite, folks, this is some stomping, fine music played by a big band who understands more than a little about groove and rhythm. There is so much here, so many funky, gritty bumps, grinds, and shouts and so much lyrical and intervallic invention and harmonic rabble rousing, that it's useless to talk about the individual compositions. It is important to say that this is a major work, one that will hopefully continue to be performed long after the emissaries of official culture have retired to their big houses with armed guards at the gates to protect them from real-life music like The Second Assassin. Gritty, real, and full of humor and even an occasional vulgar note or three, The Second Assassin is the antidote for the American malaise.

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