Bassist William Parker believes that within every song, there is a special "inside song" that conveys a deeper meaning, and it is up to the musicians to get in contact and bring the inside message to the surface. Parker has spent the last several years playing in many different bands including this unit, whose goal is to play the inside songs of soul and R&B legend Curtis Mayfield. The music presented here was recorded live at a number of concerts, some featuring special guests. Opening with "I Plan to Stay a Believer," the template is set for the recording with Leena Conquest singing in a beautifully strong gospel tinged voice, as the band expands and expounds upon the music, spinning their improvisations to considerable length. "If There's a Hell Below" is an awesome performance, featuring powerful message of togetherness in the lyrics, but that is nothing compared to the awesome potency of the music. Saxophonist Sabir Mateen takes off for the cosmos on an awesome solo recalling the late period music of John Coltrane and the thirst for true freedom. The track runs for twenty plus minutes, but builds to a climax dynamically, making it a real highlight. "We Are the People That Are Darker Than Blue" is one the tracks that focuses on poet and activist Amiri Baraka who recites freeform poetry and vocal exhortations on several selections. "I'm So Proud/Ya He Yey Ya" begins with a straight rhythm and blues feature for Conquest before moving to an interesting African influenced feel with chanting and plucked string instrument. "People Get Ready" and "This Is My Country" have the addition of the New Life Tabernacle Chior of Brooklyn, giving the music even more of a gospel feel. They sing the lyrics and allow Conquest and Baraka to improvise and scat against them for an interesting effect. The R&B anthem "Freddy's Dead" gets a fascinating makeover with Baraka using the lyrics as a starting point for commentary about life in the inner city and in 21st century America in general. This was a very interesting "big tent" project that draws on many aspects of music: R&B, blues, rap, gospel and jazz all come together in Parker's quest to get inside the music and find the deeper truths that lie within. I Plan to Stay a Believer - amazon.com
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John Butcher - Nigemizu (Uchimizu, 2015) ****½
53 minutes ago