Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
No serious collection should be without this glorious disc
Jan P. Dennis | Monument, CO USA | 02/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Truly, Comin' and Goin' represents some of the finest music ever recorded. Deftly melding folk, jazz, blues, Native American, and world music sensibilities, when it works at full bore, which it does for the majority of tunes on this disc, few musical experiences can even approach it, let alone match it.
Certainly the band's take on Pepper's sixties hit, "Witchi Tia To," is the definitive version, what with Peppers searing, soaring, elegiac-to-the-max tenor sax solo, John Scofield's chunky guitar, now comping, now doubling, now harmonizing, Kenny Werner's gospel-inflected pianisms, Hamid Drake pounding out the drumbeat heart of Native America, and Nana Vasconcelos adding deft percussion and rousing chant. Here is the ultimate anthem, a Cherokee peyote song transformed into a heart-cry for oppressed people everywhere. Who can listen to it without the plight of the world's poor and marginalized burned forever into one's heart and mind? As a measure of its status qua song (and hymn and anthem), Jan Garbarek included it in his live performances for years, and even recorded a disc--one of his best and most popular--with it as the title cut.
One of the things I love most about Jim Pepper (and I own 13 discs on which he either leads or co-leads the session) is how he positioned himself as a spokesman for the American Indian people, and, by extension, native peoples and traditional ways of life everywhere: not as an alienated, shrill, over-the-top activist, but as the musical, social, and cultural chronicler and custodian of their ways of life and being, especially in the industrialized West. By mapping traditional (rural) American Indian musical modes onto modern (urban) jazz, he achieved a brilliant and rare synthesis, almost a kind of coming together of two contradictory cultural sensibilities, preserving the music's sacredness even as he dragged it into the twentieth century. It must be said that this strategy, to which Pepper was fiercely loyal--to the extent of calling out raucous audience members during live shows--wasn't seamlessly successful: although it always achieved at the very least an irreducibly authentic feeling
Another brilliant move by Pepper is to transform the inherent melancholic nature of American Indian music by locating and teasing out a deep vein of underlying joyousness, not readily apparent but nevertheless always lurking below the surface. It's almost as if he's singing the native narrative of his people's oppression into something beyond its usual telling, presenting a path whereby they might find meaning, life, and fulfillment in what too often appears to be an unalterably alien landscape. This strategy, present throughout nearly the entire corpus of Pepper's recorded work, achieves its apogee on this disc in "Witchi Tia To" and "Lakota Song" which declaim the predicament of cultural marginalization with a poignancy and depth never before achieved in any medium, yet still hold out the hope of redemption.
A note about the band. What a lineup! Besides the already mentioned Schofield, Werner, Vasconcelos, and Drake (!), there's Collin Walcott (tabla and sitar), Don cherry (trumpet), Bill Frisell (guitar), Mark Helias (acoustic bass), and Ed Schuller (acoustic bass)--surely one of the finest assemblages of players ever to grace a session. Getting such remarkably powerful and diverse musicians to put aside egos and work to achieve a larger synthesis was itself a major achievement of this session.
One final observation. I always appreciated more than half this record but found myself struggling to get on board with the more openly American Indian chant pieces. I still find these somewhat alien, but they've grown on me over the years, almost to the point that I enjoy them as much as the other tunes.