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«Spirit Stronger Than Blood»

American, New York-based trumpeter-composer Frank London is known as a bandleader who helped revitalize klezmer with the bands The Klezmatics, Hasidic New Wave and the Klezmer Brass Allstars, or the leader of the funky Conspiracy Brass. London was recently diagnosed with myelofibrosis, an extremely rare and fatal blood cancer, so he dedicates the aptly-titled Spirit Stronger Than Blood to dear friends and colleagues who have passed away from blood diseases or cancer – fellow trumpeters Lester Bowie and Ron Miles, sax player Thomas Chapin, Yiddish singer, musician and activist Adrienne Cooper, writer Isabelle Deconinck, iconoclast vocalist-bassist-cantor Jewlia Eisenberg, and his namesake, Frank London Brown.

London leads a hard-swinging quintet of experienced musicians – pianist Marilyn Lerner, double bass player Hilliard Greene, drummer Newman Taylor Baker and sax player Greg Wall (who played with London in Hasidic New Wave). He says that Spirit Stronger Than Blood pays homage to some of the albums that shaped his musical-spiritual aesthetics: Charles Mingus’s Changes One & Two (Atlantic, 1975), Booker Little’s Out Front (Candid, 1961), Elvin Jones-McCoy Tyner Quintet’s Love & Peace (Trio, 1982), Clifford Thornton & The Jazz Composers Orchestra’s Gardens of Harlem (JCOA, 1975), and Alice Coltrane’s Ptah, The El Daoud (Impulse!, 1970). These albums inspired London – as many others –  to transcend and challenge the inequities of quotidian existence and make the world a better place, or to heal the broken world, like the Jewish concept of making our world better, tikkun olam.

Spirit Stronger Than Blood begins with an eternal and always relevant prayer «Let There Be Peace», inspired by the Jewish prayer Oseh Shalom, asking the Almighty to bring us peace, and performed in a soulful, life-affirming spirit. The following post-bop «Resilience» is dedicated to Lester Bowie and offers an almost telepathic, conversational dynamics between London and Wall whose solos extend each other’s ideas. The contemplative title piece ballad is dedicated to Jewlia Eisenberg and led by a touching, mourning solo of London, beautifully answered by Lerner. «Poem for a Blue Voice» continues the spiritual, elegiac vein and is dedicated to Isabelle DeKonnink, and was inspired by a poem of her partner, davida singer. The only piece that openly corresponds with the Klezmer legacy is «Abundant Love», based on the Jewish prayer mode, Ahava Raba, acknowledging God’s infinite love for all of us, and is dedicated to London’s wife Tine Kindermann, and his children, Anna and Louis, and highlights the inclusive sonic vision of London as a trumpeter. This inspired, beautiful album is concluded with another mournful piece «Resistance/Healing», dedicated to Ron Miles. Like the previous «Resilience» addresses attributes that we need to get through the trials, tribulations, and indignities life can throw at us. And as London says wisely, «healing of course from disease, but also from trauma, from blind obeisance to dogma».

Eyal Hareuveni

Frank London (trumpet), Marilyn Lerner (piano), Hilliard Greene (double bass), Newman Taylor Baker (drums), Greg Wall (saxophone)