Drawing upon the words of legendary civil rights leaders Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Muhammad Ali, Christian McBride offers a heartfelt large-ensemble tribute to the civil rights movement of the 1960s with 2020's The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons. The album is his third big-band recording, following his two Grammy-winning albums, 2011's The Good Feeling and 2017's Bringin' It. However, where those albums were robust and lively productions of post-bop jazz, The Movement Revisited is a more reverent and theatrical recording. Which isn't to say it's not harmonically rich with plenty of swinging improvisational intensity.
The five-part work, which he first began performing in 1998 and has subsequently updated, spotlights McBride's multifaceted skills as a composer, arranger, and lyricist as he frames the uplifting words of these four heroes with his soulful arrangements. The recording culminates in the final movement "Apotheosis," celebrating the 2008 election of Barack Obama as the first African-American President of the United States; an historic event that McBride beautifully ties directly to the civil rights and black power movements of the preceding decades. Helping bring the words of the civil rights leaders to life are narrators Wendell Pierce as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Vondie Curtis-Hall as Malcolm X, Sonia Sanchez as Rosa Parks, and Dion Graham as Muhammad Ali. Also showcased throughout are McBride's bandmates, including vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Geoffrey Keezer, and drummer Terreon Gully, among others. While the album is orchestral in nature, all of the introductory prologues are stripped down, with McBride underlining the speaker's words with his dusky, bluesy basslines.
"Sister Rosa - Prologue" also features Steve Wilson's wry flute accents. Conversely, on "Ali Speaks," McBride smartly hands the musical accompaniment over to drummer Gully, who offers a pugnacious counterpoint to Ali's swaggering vocal wit. Many of the tracks feature bright choral and gospel sections arranged with a modernist bent by J.D. Steele, a dynamic approach that evokes the edgy tonalities of '60s jazz and chamber albums like Andrew Hill's Lift Every Voice and Max Roach's It's Time. As McBride points out in his liner notes, this is a personal work filtered through the prism of his own life and his feelings about these four individuals. In that sense, it's not meant to be taken as a complete representation of the civil rights movement as a whole. It is however, a powerful and deeply considered work that invokes not just the words, but also the ebullient spirit of the civil rights movement.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar
|Brand||Mack Avenue Records|
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