Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light 

The American collective’s debut on Impulse! adopts and somewhat extends the politically propelled avant-garde style of the 1960s and 1970s


Protect Your Light is the Impulse! label debut for the American free-jazz collective Irreversible Entanglements. Formed in 2015, the group comprises vocalist Camae Ayewa (aka Moor Mother), trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, saxophonist Keir Neuringer, bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Tcheser Holmes.

Steeped in jazz history, especially the free improvisation of Ornette Coleman and the political spoken-word poetry of Gil-Scott Heron, their music also displays strong influence from world genres such as Afrobeat and reggae.

From its inception in the late 1950s, free jazz has had its finger on the pulse of civil rights and anti-colonial movements. Irreversible Entanglements are the contemporary torchbearers of this radical musical tradition. On the track Our Land Back, Ayewa’s lyrics directly reference social injustices across the global south in Nigeria, Palestine, Ethiopia and beyond. “Who holds our stories?/ Who took our land?” is her refrain, repeated with an equal measure of anger and sadness.

Celestial Pathways and Soundness continue in a similar vein and explore the complex themes of racism, religion and capitalism. Ayewa’s vocals cut through the dense mix of percussion and frenetic horns solos with gravity, sincerity and calmness. Throughout, Navarro and Neuringer display wonderful chemistry and competitive energy in their ventures into the outer realms of jazz.

These dense moments of collective improvisation are tastefully balanced with more accessible, uplifting moments. After a dirge-like intro, Free Love develops an Afrobeat groove, and the title track Protect Your Light is propelled by spirited Latin rhythms and reggae beats. The album also has its moments of slow-tempo introspection, most notably on the final two tracks Sunshine and Degrees Of Freedom.

Protect Your Light is certainly not one for newcomers to jazz; but for those already acquainted with the deep back-catalogue of Impulse!, this is certainly an exciting, innovative addition.

Free Love; Protect Your Light; Our Land Back; Soundness; root <=> branch; Celestial Pathways; Sunshine; Degrees Of Freedom (45.14)
Camae Ayewa (v); Aquiles Navarro (t); Keir Neuringer (as); Luke Stewart (b); Tcheser Holmes (d). Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
Impulse! Records 00602455819246