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Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls - Seize the Day
(Naim Jazz)
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 6, 2009
Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls

Review by Brad Walseth

On their 5th album, Seize the Time, the Souls find themselves recording again with True Stereo engineer Ken Christianson, and the results are as to be expected: stunning. Reinterpreting the works of socially-conscious artists like the Clash, Charles Mingus, Caetano Veloso, Miriam Makeba and Stephen Foster (yes, that Stephen Foster), as well as offering up several excellent originals, this talented group makes a strong case that great music and political activism are still a vital combination. Led by Sirota's propulsive drumming, the Rebel Souls include several of Chicago's finest young talents, including bassist Jake Vinsel, guitarist Dave Miller and a dream team front line of Greg Ward on alto sax and Geof Bradfield on tenor and soprano saxes and bass clarinet.

All of the members bring compositions, while Bradfield and Miller also arrange the "covers." This mixture of genre's, rock, jazz and Afrobeat is heartfelt and appealing. Mingus' "Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi USA" finds the group working strong in the jazz vein, while the underrated Miller's moody and inventive reworking of the Clash's "Clampdown" is virtually unrecognizable from the original punk rock anthem.

Bradfield shows his interest in African (and African-infuenced South American) music with his arrangements of Veloso's "13 De Maio" (which commemorates the day slavery was abolished in Brazil) and Makeba's "Polo Mze." Sirota performs a drum solo tribute to Max Roach (another stalwart against injustice), while his "Killa Dilla" is pure Afropop fun. (Miller shows an uncanny command of African guitar method throughout these tunes) Vinsel adds the delicious "Liitle D," which morphs without warning from a lovely ballad into Mariachi music gone mod. Ward brings a funky, energy-packed "The Keys of Freedom" to end the album on a high note. But, perhaps the centerpiece of the album is the haunting arrangement by Bradfield of Foster's "Hard Times (Come Again No More)" - an appropriate sentiment for these current times.

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