Irreversible Entanglements – Protect Your Light

In der internationalen Szene haben sich Irreversible Entanglements längst einen Namen gemacht, jetzt legen sie mit „Protect Your Light“ ihr viertes Album als Debüt bei Impulse! Records vor. Das Kollektiv aus Philadelphia, Pennsylvania und Washington D.C. wurde 2015 nach einem Konzert gegen rassistische Polizeigewalt gegründet um den Texten von Dichterin, Musikerin und Aktivistin Camae Ayewa alias Moor Mother einen musikalischen Rahmen zu geben

„Protect Your Light“ entstand in einer dreitägigen Session im Januar 2023 im legendären Rudy-Van-Gelder-Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, in dem u.a. auch John Coltranes Klassiker „A Love Supreme“ aufgenommen wurde und ist ein aufregender Nachfolger der drei Alben, die Irreversible Entanglements zuvor für das Chicagoer Label International Anthem aufgenommen haben.

Saxofonist Keir Neuringer, Poetin Camae Ayewa und Bassist Luke Stewart kennen sich von verschiedenen basisdemokratischen Aktionen in Philadelphia. Zusammen reisten sie im April 2015 nach Brooklyn, um an der Manifestation „Musicians Against Police Brutality“ teilzunehmen. Direkt nach ihnen spielte ein Duo Trompete und Drums, bestehend aus Aquiles Navarro und Tcheser Holmes. Getrieben von ihren gemeinsamen musikalischen und politischen Ideen fanden sich die Mitglieder des Ensembles zusammen.

Keir Neuringer organisierte ein Studio in Brooklyn, wo sie ein paar Monate später an einem Nachmittag das erste Mal zu fünft zusammenspielten. Daraus entstand das erste Album „Irreversible Entanglements“, das 2017 gemeinschaftlich vom Don Giovanni Label aus New Jersey und International Anthem aus Chicago herausgebracht wurde. Die überwältigende Reaktion darauf (einschließlich „Best of 2017“-Auszeichnungen von NPR Music, WIRE Magazine, Bandcamp und anderen) führten zu einer hohen Nachfrage nach der Band im Live-Bereich, sodass sie einen Großteil der darauffolgenden Jahre auf Tour verbrachte. Bei ihren Auftritten haben sie mit Legenden wie Amina Claudine Myers, Pat Thomas und Nicole Mitchell zusammengearbeitet. Zu ihren bekanntesten Auftrittsorten gehören das Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, das Le Guess Who Festival in Utrecht, das Barbican in London und das Smithsonian in Washington DC.

Die Musik des „befreiungsbewegten Free-Jazz-Kollektivs“ übernimmt die ritualistischen Rhythmen vom altehrwürdigen Art Ensemble, die hymnische Ekstase vom späten John Coltrane, die Spiritualität von Alice Coltrane oder Pharoah Sanders und die akustisch-elektrischen Texturen von Zeitgenossen wie Shabaka Hutchings oder ihrem Label-Kollegen Makaya McCraven. Mag ja sein, dass die Musik der Irreversible Entanglements mitunter abstrakt und schroff ist, sie wirkt aber nie unnahbar, ist oft sinnlich und wirkt manchmal stark bewusstseinserweiternd. Ralf Dorschel / NDR


Das darf dann auch daran erinnern, dass Jazz einmal der Soundtrack einer emanzipatorischen Bewegung wie des Civil Rights Movements war, dass Sound auch Einmischung sein kann. Über allem steht aber die Lust an der Erforschung

der Extreme. Frank Sawatzki / Musikexpress


Die Worte von Moor Mother speit diese mit der Macht einer düsteren Predigerin  ins Mikro und hinter ihr lodert das Feuer dieser fabelhaften Band. Kein Trost, aber jede Menge Wut am Ende eines weiteren furchtbaren Jahres.  Energy Time! Andreas Müller / radioeins


Sounds define eras! And, every once in a while, the world is blessed with a band clearly charting its own sonic and cultural course. In those rare cases, the musicians reflect various community identities, perspectives and aspirations; then come together to form a supernova, a bursting vision of how we might get to the future. (Its music, in fact, already spells elements of that future out). Usually, it’s history recording the names of these bands, but occasionally we experience their authority and splendor in real time, and there’s no better feeling than being that present.

In 2023, this band is Irreversible Entanglements (IE), a free-jazz quintet with an experimental punk mentality. And Protect Your Light, the group’s debut album for the legendary Impulse! record label is the kind of artistic and social statement that simultaneously plugs into and tweaks the zeitgeist. Over the course of the record’s eight tracks the poet/vocalist Camae Ayewa (often known as Moor Mother), bassist Luke Stewart, trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, saxophonist Keir Neuringer, and drummer Tcheser Holmes unite to deliver an unconditional statement of intent and rhythm. IE’s improvisations are molded in the fire of the moment, while its songs are born in experience, where music and life are one and the same. There is no one remotely like them on the planet, and no recent album like the one you should have already pressed “Play” on.

Primarily recorded over three days in January 2023 at the historic Rudy Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Protect Your Light is a thrilling exciting successor to the three already-classic records IE cut for Chicago’s International Anthem label. Protect Your Light also features contributions from some of the greater members of IE’s community — pianist/vocalist Janice A. Lowe, cellist Lester St. Louis and vocalist Sovei — who help illuminate the band’s musical dexterity and expand the breadth of its beautiful consciousness. The eight pieces were composed both individually and collectively, with some themes brand new, while others are rooted in IE’s spirited, wholly improvised live performances with Ayewa adding words that elevate what she calls the band’s “in-communion” practices.

Navarro is the primary force behind the groove of “Free Love,” which is heavy with the Panama-raised trumpeter’s fanfares, and with declarations of what the band calls a “universal message that provokes unity through a love that lives free, the love that lives in you.” Some of those same dance-rhythms also emanate from “Protect Your Light,” the album title-track based on another Aquiles riff, and which the liner notes written by the Washington, D.C poet, historian and alter-destiny prophet Thomas Stanley says are charged with “the triumphant swagger of a Haitian rara band” and a myriad of Carnival-ing voices. It was saxophonist Neuringer with whom “Our Land Back” originated. The album’s most socially conscious and political track, it’s “an anthem to struggles for self-determination by peoples who have been dispossessed of their land and denied their right to return, [which] swings for autonomy and solidarity and against forgetting.” Keir is also the kindle for “root⇔branch,” a salute to IE’s dearly departed comrade and fellow punk-jazz provocateur, the trumpeter jaimie branch.

Stewart and Holmes, whose partnership in and out of IE has cemented the pair as one of the East Coast’s most propulsive and valuable jazz rhythm section, steer “Soundness” through the raucous conversation between Aquiles’ trumpet and Keir’s alto. Ayewa’s “Sunshine” is the closest PYL comes to a ballad, with Lowe’s vocal invocation of the warming star’s movement across the earthly heavens, and her piano softly leading the group towards a synth-heavy denouement.

The collaboratively created “Degrees of Freedom“ is the epic closer. What begins at a breakneck pace, with a heavy Moor Mother flex (“Let’s get right into it, straight out the gate, kick in the door, horns blazing…”), ends up as PYL’s most complicated emotional territory. It’s a request for release and sweetness harkening back to “Free Love,” but with St. Louis’ cello elevating the group’s already rich harmonic presentation, the joy gives way to something more melancholy. Painting our society in its truest hues (“a world where color is anti-black/and the rainbow is met with a cohesive interference”!!!!!), “Degrees” is a crafted, heart-wrenching ending to an album of highly considered feels and high-BPM motions — which never lets you forget IE’s origins, or original intentions.

Those origins are rooted firmly in the struggle. IE first came together spontaneously, organically, in April of 2015 at “Musicians Against Police Brutality,” a day of protest music and discussion that took place in Brooklyn’s famed community venue, Silent Barn, organized following an NYPD officer’s killing of Akai Gurly. They were all musical activists of varying degrees. Philly-based Camae and Keir, and D.C.-based Luke knew each other from sharing the same Mid-Atlantic noise-hardcore-experimental DIY spaces — and that day at Silent Barn debuted as a trio. Following them on the now-legendary bill, was a trumpet-drums duo, Aquiles and Tcheser, musical BFFs and recent New England Conservatory grads who’d recently returned to the Brooklyn of Holmes’ youth. Keir describes listening to them as feeling like “time folded in on itself — we could hear [both acts] at the same time.” Backstage, the new quintet mind-melded.

A few months later, they went into the studio to confirm what was already suspected; and soon after, named the group, redefining a quantum physics term (a linguistic practice Camae had initiated with her collective, Black Quantum Futurism). Its self-titled 2017 debut instantly established Irreversible Entanglements as a force. The incendiary live performances that followed did more, pushing the band from the clubs to festivals, both prestigious jazz ones (New York’s Vision, Montreal Jazz), and the general-interest gatherings (Pitchfork, Roskilde). And in the myriad of incredible individual projects each continued to work on, the members of IE fed off the energy they have tapped into as a collective.

But collectively… they’re fully operational, their notes full of love, and are headed straight for your ass and ears, heart and mind, steady following a path set forth by Ra and Clinton, DC hardcore and Chicago creative music, poets and “music-ers”. Worthy heirs for a label often referred to as “the house that Trane built”. Irreversible Entanglements makes the world feel blessed again. What defines this band, the beauty of Protect Your Light, and how it reps the moment, is a love of the people, of the Black musical tradition, of each other, and of playing it like they’re saying it. Get to that community love on time — don’t force history to guide you.


04.11.23          Berlin              Jazzfest

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Universal Music Jazz (Deutsche Grammophon GmbH)

Stralauer Allee 1, 10245 Berlin

Impulse! Records / Universal Music

CD 00602455819239 / LP 00602455819246

VÖ: 08.09.2023


04.11.23          Berlin              Jazzfest

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