Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Words Project II review on jazzchicago.net

Review by Brad Walseth

I had a sinking feeling that something was missing from my life, but couldn't put a finger on it until I put Sam Sadigursky's "Word Project II" on to listen and I remembered the power that words have to bring beauty and meaning into life. Of course this force can be amplified by combining it with great music, and Sadigursky, whose first Words Project was a revelation and one of the better releases of 2007, is back with another release that may even surpass the first one.

The original project centered around translations of Eastern European poets, while the new release only offers one in this category: "The Sea and the Man" by Anna Swir. Instead, there are two African American written poems, "Therapy" by Audre Lorde and "The Dream Keeper" by Langston Hughes; "The War Works Hard" by Iraqi-American Dunya Mikhail, and poems by two well-known Western poets, the late David Ignatow ("No Theory") and Sadi Ranson Polizzotti ("Such Fruit - The Ritual"). These "serious" works are countered by three darkly humorous entries from noted "troublemaker" Andrew Boyd's book Daily Afflictions (as opposed to "affirmations"), and a transcription of Miss Teen U.S.A. contestant, Caitlin Upton's convoluted response to a question posed to her during the pageant.

Many of the same participants appear on this new recording: Nate Radley on guitar and banjo; Pete Rende on keyboards; Eivind Opsvik on bass, and are joined by drummer Bill Campbell to form the core group (percussionist Richie Brashay is added on three tracks, and soprano saxophonists Daniel Blake and Jeremy Udden appear on one). Sadigursky himself plays saxophones, clarinet, piccolo, percussion, keyboards and more. Singers Monika Heidemann and Becca Stevens reprise their roles, providing different vocal while Wendy Gilles joins in replacing Heather Masse. The continuity adds to the recording and things sound even more focused and relaxed.

"Paths" starts things off in a darkly compelling manner with its cynical look at self-help tracts, while Polizzotti's �Such Fruit - The Ritual" is a lovely number that perfectly captures the longing and ambivalence of romance. Meanwhile, track three, Ignatow's "No Theory" will have you dancing and singing along to a song that features not your usual words and sentiments you would never expect in such a cheery musical number. Hughes' "The Dream Keeper" is given a delicate treatment that suits these beautiful lines well.

"Miss Teen U.S.A." is again humorous in a dark way, with the indecipherable lines fitting the jazz groove like beat poetry. And Sadigursky is able to write music that corresponds tightly to Andrew Boyd's wryly sardonic insights on "It Takes a Nail" and "Indecision."

The subtle "The Sea and the Man" may be the centerpiece of the album with lines like "You will not tame this sea either by humility or rapture, but you can laugh in its face," seeming to express the sentiments of Sadigursky's entire project. The haunting "The War Works Hard" features the poet herself over an appropriately swirling freeform morass. The jazzy outro is Audre Lorde's "Therapy" with a single saxophone accompanying the singer. A delightful ending to a work that fuses the sadness and joy inherent in life and filters them through the beauty and absurdity of life in a way that helps me remember why I love both music and words so much.

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