Composer Jerome Kitzke’s ongoing concern with the American landscape and how we live in it manifests in full flower on The Paha Sapa Give-Back, his first all-original release in fifteen years. The political and the personal are interwoven in three intensely theatrical pieces whose music thrives on the spirit of Plains Indian song, driving jazz, Beat Generation poetry, and contemporary classical music. The result is a sound that is uniquely and bracingly American, where freedom and ritual converge.
Language that is stinging, tender and humorous figures prominently in these pieces where the poems of Allen Ginsberg, Aeschylus, John Scott, Anonymous, Helen Mackay, Harold Pinter, Walt Whitman and Rumi are brought to ecstatic life in Kitzke’s hands. The disc begins with Kitzke’s rollicking account of “The Green Automobile,” his 2000 setting of Ginsberg’s 1953 poem about friendship and love, for amplified speaking pianist. On the title track, Kitzke’s band, The Mad Coyote, gives a hard-driving reading of this 1993 exhortation to give the Black Hills back to the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho nations, thus honoring the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty. Rounding out the record, actor Jennifer Kathryn Marshall teams with ETHEL and percussionist Barbara Merjan in a searing performance of Kitzke’s 2008 anti-war work, “Winter Count,” which uses the aforementioned poets’ words as a libretto.
An image of friendship, a call for justice, and a protestation of war, all given forth in Jerome Kitzke’s inimitable musical language. That is The Paha Sapa Give-Back.
Outrages and Interludes brings together eight works documenting composer John Halle's decade-long involvement with radical Leftist politics. Described by Kyle Gann "as one of the great unsung totalists,” Halle and his fusion of vernacular styles, kinetic rhythms, formal sophistication, and subtle lyricism point to a new direction in music and political engagement that nevertheless maintains deep roots in the American musical tradition.
Featuring the work of some the finest young musicians including Ransom Wilson's Le train bleu and The Now Ensemble, the collection of salvos takes on bipartisan atrocities dating to the Truman administration, Christian identity stalwart and mass murderer Timothy McVeigh, a former Harvard president's belief in the "impeccable logic" of poisoning Africans and concludes with an inspirational guest appearance by Occupy Wall Street’s David Graeber in an extended reflection on a seminal 18th century anarchist text.
Conor Brown's strikingly elegant production creates a consistently warm and inviting environment for confronting what are sometimes harsh political and musical truths.