Black Art Jazz Collective: Truth To Power

Authentic, thoroughgoing postbop from NY band that includes the Fender Rhodes à la Zawinul in the tradition

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HighNote Records has the highest standards for postbop, and the excellent Truth To Power confirms this. The Black Art Jazz Collective’s founding members are Wayne Escoffery, Jeremy Pelt, James Burton III, Xavier Davis and Johnathan Blake. The collective is a sextet that has been around since 2014, and this is their fourth album.

There are two rhythm sections: the older team of Xavier Davis, Vicente Archer and Johnathan Blake, and the younger trio of pianist Victor Gould, bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr. Escoffery explains that “I formed Black Art Jazz Collective as an ensemble of African American musicians, celebrating Black culture and the origins of the music through original compositions with unapologetic pride.”

The opening Black Heart is a plangent mid-tempo piece, with a characteristically thoughtful, melodic solo from Escoffery on tenor saxophone. A standout is the affecting ballad Coming Of Age, but my favourite is The Fabricator, with gorgeous Fender Rhodes stylings. The limpid electric piano heard here reminds me of Miles Davis’s wonderful In A Silent Way, with Joe Zawinul on Fender – an underrated tonality in jazz which it’s good to see the Collective exploring.

Blues On Stratford Road is a state-of-the-art blues that concludes a fine album by some wonderful aggregations. Truth To Power badly needs to be spoken in the present time, and this fine album is a salutary reminder. Though Black Art provide nothing radically new, their work is contemporary in the sense of the finest of mainstream postbop.

Discography
Black Heart; The Fabricator; Truth To Power; It’s Alright; Coming Of Age; Dsus; Code Switching; Soliloquy (For Sidney Poitier); Lookin’ For Leroy; Blues On Stratford Road (63.22)
Collectively, Jeremy Pelt, Josh Evans, Wallace Roney Jr. (t); James Burton III (tb); Wayne Escoffery (ts); Xavier Davis, Victor Gould (p); Vicente Archer, Rashaan Carter (b); Johnathan Blake, Mark Whitfield Jr. (d). New York, 9-10 May 2023.
HighNote Records HCD 7353