TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival: Irreversible Entanglements aims to decolonize minds
In 2015, the free-jazz collective of saxophonist Keir Neuringer, poet Camae Ayewa and bassist Luke Stewart gathered for a Musicians Against Police Brutality concert in New York. This followed the fatal police shooting of Akai Gurley the year before.
So it seemed appropriate that Stewart speak to the Law before the recent Irreversible Entanglements concert at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which houses another high-profile police murder victim, George Floyd.
Stewart pointed out that the global system of racial oppression is tied to a way of being and a way of thinking that African Americans have been subjected to for centuries.
“People ask a lot of questions because there’s a lower level of understanding, in general, about what’s going on,” said Stewart. “This system has grown to the point where confusion is the means of subjugation.”
According to Stewart, the heart of Irreversible Entanglements “liberation-oriented free jazz” centers on decolonizing the minds of listeners.
“The sound and the words, I think, suggest that for sure,” he said. “And that’s intentional of us.”
The track “No Más” from the album Who sent you? provides an ideal example. Opening with sweeping horns and driven by Stewart’s pulsating double bass, it is punctuated by the phrase “no más / no more”.
“It will sound different every time,” said Stewart.
Ayewa, aka Moor Mother, writes all the lyrics but, according to Stewart, there’s no one facing Irreversible Entanglements. This is because his voice is seen as another instrument.
Irreversible Entanglements is inspired by the New York Art Quartet, a free-jazz ensemble formed in New York in 1964. Stewart felt the group was at its best with poet Amiri Baraka, whom he described as a “powerful voice.” But who did not face the group either.
“It’s important for us to be connected to that tradition and that legacy,” said Stewart, “especially in these rapidly changing times – being a force with that energy and that legacy to seek out different ways of being. in the future.”
After a year of social math and with the effects of the pandemic starting to wear off in North America, Stewart said he was “looking forward to seeing what kinds of changes, if any, will be made across the board. the jazz industry ”.
“It’s almost like I see jazz like an iceberg in the ocean,” he noted. “While the tip of the iceberg is JazzTimes–DownBeat part that is most visible to the community… the rest of the iceberg is the community of musicians, aficionados, audience members, impresarios, et cetera who work in this underground ecosystem, really. “
He added that this is because “jazz occupies the same underground status as anything else in terms of accessibility to the general public”.
“It’s on the same level as punk rock or underground hip-hop or underground electronic music,” noted Stewart.