Kali Z. Fasteau/Kidd Jordan

People of the Ninth
Flying Note FNCD 9011

A Free Jazz response to the events of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent devastation of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, People of the Ninth is creatively praiseworthy as well as noteworthy because it’s absolute music not agit-prop.

So rather than attaching brass band replications, Second Line struts or lyrics to their free form improvisations, Kali Z. Fasteau, Kidd Jordan and Michael T.A. Thompson stay true to their own impulses. Veterans all, the three express the rage and frustration associated with the Louisiana disaster through interlocked improvisations that highlight their versatility in the form of expressive atonality.

Most directly affected is Jordan, a tenor saxophonist and university music professor, who has played with everyone from bassist William Parker to fellow tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson. A longtime Big Easy resident, he personally had to face the chaos created by the natural disaster. Additionally, one of his children, trumpeter Marlon, was literally rescued from the flooding after spending days trapped on the roof of his house. Kidd Jordan is also music director of the Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp in New Orleans and profits from this CD will be donated to the camp program.

In short, People of the Ninth is a first-rate session whose sale is wedded to a worthy cause.

A specialist in World improvised music as well as jazz; Kali Z. Fasteau pioneered this genre in the 1970s working with other no-boundaries types such bassist/saxophonist Donald Rafael Garrett and saxophonist/trumpeter Joe McPhee. A multi-instrumentalist who has performed in 16 countries, she plays soprano saxophone, piano, cello, nai or oblique reed flute and aquasonic or bowed metal jug on this CD. As for Thompson, who has worked with trumpeter Dennis González, saxophonist Oliver Lake and bassist Parker, among others, he expresses himself here on drums and belafon.

Overall, however, ethnic instrumentation doesn’t push this session into the World Music camp any more than its subject distances the 12 tracks from self-sufficient, non-programmatic improvisations and compositions. Non-western instruments are utilized as sound sources, not exotica, with the same free techniques exhibited with them as for standard Western instruments.

Thompson’s hammered wooden xylophone-like pitter-pattering from the belafon for instance, is mixed with kinetic cadences from Fasteau’s piano and Jordan’s widely-spaced Tranesque slurs to make a point on “Concentration Dome”. In another instance, Fasteau’s whale cry replication with the aquasonic, featured on “Whales’ Advice”, locksteps with the saxophonist’s doits, flattement and whinnying, while Thompson ratchets his drum tops and slaps bells.

Sounding more poignant than learned, Fasteau’s cello expositions often resonate against and pierce Jordan’s full-force reed expositions. In one instance, strings curve from vibrated horizontal pulses to jagged, staccato positions to vibrate alongside the reedist’s accelerating waves of multiphonics on “Professor Jordan’s Favorite Horse”; while the same strings swell to spicatto sul ponticello elsewhere to echo his altissimo textures. Fasteau’s piano stance relates strongly to her cello technique as well, with low-pitched runs, strummed arpeggios plus stopped and scraped internal string movements predominating. Used expressively for accompaniment, they properly showcase Jordan’s altissimo runs, abstract split tones and harsh glottal punctuation in appropriate situations.

Most often, both reedists’ oral instruments entwine and encircle one another to produce double counterpoint. You can also easily tell them apart. Fasteau’s tone is pinched, probably internationally, at least when compared to Jordan’s expressiveness on the larger axe.

Someone who has worked in all sorts of music – freely improvised and otherwise – Jordan never loses his focus. As well as blowing dissonant extended techniques, his solos also include at different times quotes from jazz standards like “Now’s The Time” and “Close Your Eyes”. Glottal and guttural his Trane-like sound-singing reaches a climax on Fasteau’s “Solace (Transcendance IV)”, the CD’s finale. As she pumps out gospelish piano chords behind him his slurring tones accelerates to solid timbres that mix spirituality and defiance – just like the attitude of the folks in the Ninth Ward.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Levees, Lies & Lies 2 Rising Winds 3. Right of Return 4. What Once Was 5. Whales’Advice 6. Rescue Denied 7. Professor Jordan’s Favorite Horse 8. Mr. October 9. Concentration Dome 10. a) Diaspora b) Oil & Water 11. The Dynamite Question 12. Solace (Transcendance IV)

Personnel: Kidd Jordan (tenor saxophone); Kali Z. Fasteau (soprano saxophone, nai , piano, cello and aquasonic) and Michael T.A. Thompson (drums and balafon)