Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brothahood



by Borracho USER (9 Reviews)
January 9th, 2023 | 1 replies

Release Date: 2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: we hearby declare...

“This Little Light of Mine” is one of those ubiquitous songs that have burrowed their way into the subconscious thicket of most anyone who’s grown up in the West. It has been rendered in one shape or another by everyone and anyone, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to the Everly Brothers, from countless Baptist church-halls to a small platoon of white Bible Belt hopefuls on singing reality TV shows. In the mid 90’s, Whoopi Goldberg taught a little white girl to sing it in a movie, and in 2001, Odetta sang it on the Letterman Show. The origin of “Light” has mostly been lost to history, but the song has survived through several identities, a children’s song turned gospel standard turned civil rights anthem turned, like most effigies are liable to do, into a largely benign crowd favourite, sapped of all past taxonomies of race politics held at its core.

On scorching LIVE highlight “Dr. Wattz n’ em,” Angel Bat Dawid and her septet, Tha Brothahood, boldy return “Light” to its past insurrection. The song, along with another gospel mainstay “Shine on Me” get maimed and disfigured and then re-assembled into a viscous display of volume and rage. Dawid and the band sing, scream, groan and grunt, reducing the songs to mostly their central lines, shouted with shifting cadences over minimal instrumentation, fermenting any meaning attached into a punch-drunk swirl.

So it goes on LIVE, a fervid, fevered document of an artist leaving it all on the stage. Dawid herself has, by all accounts, gone through several lives; the daughter of missionaries, her path has traversed Georgia, Kentucky and Kenya, a dead-end retail job all the way to Chicago’s revered Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The clarinetist has been carving her path through the contemporary jazz scene since 2018, and to those paying attention to the genre in its modern model, her presence may appear almost as pervasive as “This Little Light of Mine,” putting out music at a restless pace, along with guesting on standouts by Damon Locks, Sons of Kemet, dumama + kechou and many, many more.

While her recorded output has always carried a somewhat sedate, melancholic mood, on LIVE, Dawid exhales with full force. The irreverent gracile fury of Nina Simone, the desecrationist aspects of Lucille Bogan, and the sheer dense wrath of Mingus all come together here to create the definitive versions of her compositions. Nowhere is that volcanic switch more evident than on “Black Family.” The original studio version that first appeared on The Oracle, moved at mid-tempo speed, with the clarinet mournfully wailing over a clicker drum beat. On LIVE, Dawid ushers the song in on a chant that grows angrier and angrier before the clarinet hurtles its air through the room, alive and pulsing. As Deacon Otis Cooke and Norman W. Long take turns soloing on keys, “Black Family” becomes something far more than was first laid to tape.

The album is richly soaked in Dawid’s figures of inspirations. The set kicks off with a take on Sun Ra’s “Enlightenment,” Dawid references the poem “What Shall I Tell my Children Who are Black?” by Dr. Margaret Burroughs, and the set’s closer HELL is underscored by field recordings from a panel discussion from the Berlin JazzFest, where the album was recorded. The inlay of the concert record, as well as the group’s Bandcamp page describe in detail the hardships that they endured in Berlin, as one of their own fell ill, the festival’s apathy, as well encountering routine poor treatment both as artists generally, and as artists who are black in particular. It’s a story worth reading, if only far too loaded and complex to fully encapsulate in a music review. What remains is the music. Enjoy.

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January 9th 2023


Album Rating: 4.0


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