Published Mar 26, 2019We can reasonably assume that New York avant-gardist Amirtha Kidambi does not want us to "eat the rich." That being said, she delivers the oft-quoted line with enough snarling disdain to approximate what a more literal order would sound like. By the time she completes the thought — "or die starving" — don't be surprised if you find yourself contemplating its ethics just a bit too deeply.
Kidambi is nothing if not provocative. On this second album from her Elder Ones quartet, she delivers a dynamic vocal performance with huge range. Incorporating spoken word, jazz vocals and even echoes of the great Sheila Chandra's Speaking In Tongues, Kidambi is a force.
Remarkably, she's found a group that can keep up with her voice and analogue synthesizer. Matt Nelson and his soprano saxophone are often side-by-side with Kidambi. It's like the two of them are channelling an Ornette Coleman solo, except they're two separate artists drawing on two separate instruments.
His contributions to the album's title track are considerable. At one point Nelson's horn grows increasingly distorted until breaking down completely. It had me checking my headphone batteries. Maxx Jaffe's drum set adds a beautifully detailed layer. Like all great free-jazz percussionists, Jaffe anchors the group while at the same time finding ways to add colourful surprises. Bassist Nick Dunston is every bit as creative as his bandmates. Like a lot of players in his position, his contributions don't always stand out in the mix. But when his bass does come to the fore, it's mesmerizing.
When historians look back on the free-jazz movement, they're sure to wonder about the relative lack of vocal accompaniment; it's not at all clear why that has been. There have always been plenty of talented singers in the world with the chops to keep up with a hip horn or rhythm section.
In this respect, Elder Ones can be seen as something more than a talented group of players. They represent a step forward in the long and proud tradition of avant-garde jazz. (Northern Spy)