"This one's for Akai Gurley," declares Camae Ayewa from the center of a tornadic disturbance caused by one-off collaborators turned bandmates Tcheser Holmes (drums), Luke Stewart (double bass), Aquiles Navarro (trumpet), and Keir Neuringer (saxophone). In referencing the tragedy that prompted the Musicians Against Police Brutality event that begat Irreversible Entanglements -- after a thunderous sequence filled with caustic and terrified remarks directed at an occupying force -- the poet supreme continues to link the recent past to the present, or what she identified on the group's first album as "trauma looping." It's no coincidence that the instrumentalists throughout Who Sent You? keep building on a previous generation's free jazz -- more specifically the fire music, to use Archie Shepp's terminology -- made in response to similar displays of corrupt power. Unlike Shepp, Irreversible Entanglements don't recast standards and bossa nova hits. There's no time for that. Following a mournful, simmering intro in the opening "The Code Noir/Amina," Ayewa sternly repeats "every nine seconds," the time separating one incident of domestic abuse from the next, demanding an answer to "At what point do we give a shit?" The Pope gets his in "Blues Ideology," with Holmes' hard pulsing keeping the purposefully wayward players, mimicking the pontiff's drunken shuffle observed by Aweya, from veering completely off course. Not all is fury and scorn. Presumably inspired by Dionne Brand's book of the same title, the concluding "Bread Out of Stone" is calm and meditative, if by no measure escapist. Above all, at the start of side two, is "No Más." Holmes and Stewart get into an intricately knotted funk groove, composer Navarro and Neuringer buzz and beam with a shared sense of liberation, and Ayewa speaks of "Infinite possibilities coming back around -- I know we are more than circles." It's uplifting, even life-affirming.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman