______________________________________________________________________________ CD Review: AMINA BARAKA & THE RED MICROPHONE Jazz daGama" blog Throughout her life with her legendary husband Amiri Baraka, Amina Baraka has never received quite the same degree of recognition as he did and the field probably only became more levelled with the appearance of her work in many anthologies of revolutionary American poetry. the publication of her first collection of poems Blues in All Hues (2014) seems to have cemented that reputation. Still, Amina Baraka has been a voice no less fiery and lyrical than Amiri Baraka and the eloquent recitations of her work throughout her literary career has been marked by many a memorable performance. Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone will surely build on this reputation. The poetry of Amina Baraka is nothing if not marked by her embrace of the visceral splendour of life in all its naked humanity and the recitation of it behind this quartet of two saxophones, bass and drums (with the occasional introduction of piano) is the very personification of vibrancy. Still, nothing can prepare you for the dramatic intensity of verse that is both lyrical and didactic, and despite pouring vitriol on the Fascist elements of American society it is completely bereft of posturing. The two saxophones not only sound the battle charge along with the roar of the electric bass to create the provocative atmosphere of “Time Step” and “The Fascist”, the bookends of this album. However, between those two theatrical recitations there is much subtlety, refined naturalness of delivery and even a soft, exquisite simplicity of line and poetry. “The Spirit of Billy Bang” and “The Things I Love” are exquisite examples of Amina Baraka’s verse. The latter poem “The Things I Love” is an epic ballad of the African-American woman unfolding with velvet ease with lightly worn sophistication. Three other ballads: “Jayne Cortez”, “Afro American Child” and “For Margaret Walker Alexander” pay tribute to significant artists, while “Afro American Child” ponders the desolate landscape into which new life appears not only for the child born to a black mother. But its Jazz lyric is also a glorious intimation of the birth and rebirth of the Blues People from the earliest Blues shouters to the contemporary Jazz child. It is also a sensuous rallying call for the real African American Woman as opposed to the one glorified in todat’s hip-hop culture. With “Real Dreams” and “Talking Drum” Amina Baraka joins the continuum of African griots who have existed since language and speech was first used to tell of Human History as it evolved from its beginnings in the womb of Mother Africa. It is here, more than anywhere else on this record, that we experience the immaculate sound world of Amina Baraka. Track list – 1: Time Step; 2: The Spirit of Billy Bang; 3: The Things I Love; 4: Jayne Cortez; 5: Afro American Child; 6: For Margaret Walker Alexander; 7: Real Dreams; 8: Talking Drum; 9: The Fascist Personnel – Amina Baraka: words, lead vocals with the Red Microphone: Ras Moshe Burnett: tenor saxophone, flute and percussion; Rocco John Iacovone: curved soprano saxophone, alto saxophone and piano; John Pietaro: musical direction, drums and percussion; Laurie Towers: bass guitar; ‘amen’ chorus on “Talking Drum”: Ras, Rocco and John Released – 2017 Label – ESP Disk Runtime – 1:10:58” - Raul daGama

CD Review: Jazz daGama

________________________________________________________________________________ Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone (ESP-Disc) ...Every anti-racist could use a shot of Amiri's widow naming our enemies and celebrating her history ("Afro American Child," "The Things I Love," "The Fascist") **” - Robert Christgau

CD Review: Noisey blog

____________________________________________________________________________________ AMINA BARAKA & THE RED MICROPHONE (ESP-Disk) If you want fiery poetry reminiscent of Jayne Cortez and Amiri Baraka pick up Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone on ESP and get your mind blown by their strength of conviction to poetry, music, justice, and life. Amina also performed in August as part of another socially and politically inspiring Dissidents Arts Festival” - Steve Dalachinsky

CD Review: "The Brooklyn Rail"

__________________________________________________________________________________________ JAZZ RIGHT NOW, Aug 22, 2017 AMINA BARAKA & THE RED MICROPHONE" (ESP-Disk) review by John Morrison Celebrated poet, organizer, activist and actress Amina Baraka is a central figure in the living history of the Black Arts Movement, along with her late husband Amiri. On her latest project, Baraka digs deep into that poetic and political history, unearthing a bittersweet, timeless Blues for the working class. Backed by a tight, intuitive ensemble of instrumentalists (known as the Red Microphone), Baraka delivers an ambitious full-length project that feels like a love letter to the struggles, poetry, politics, and culture of Black people. The album opens with “Time Step” a swinging Blues abstraction, Baraka’s vocal delivery ringing with passion and immediacy as she leads a clarion call of dancers, musicians, fighters, workers and revolutionaries around the world: “if they could hear us coming … meeeean and cleeean. Slow-dragging, purple BLUES … PRINCE … signfying … riding HIGH …” “The Spirit of Billy Bang” is a thoughtful and creative tribute to the late violinist. Baraka’s delivery is delightfully charming and playful, drawling and dancing on top of Laurie Towers’ dramatic, rolling bassline: “Billy the violinist was a dangerous man … Bang showed up, pulled out his bow … eeevvverybody know.” “Things I Love” finds Baraka running down a laundry list of people, places and things that bring her joy. “I love the full moon, I love a summer at midnight … I love a Duke Ellington song …” Baraka declares “I love Albert Ayler’s ghost!” and the band immediately responds by launching into a firey Ayler-esque crescendo of sax and clustered piano chords. “I looooove Charlie Parker … I love birds and I loooooooooove toooooo flllllyyyyyy”, the entire tune beaming with warmth and authority. The intro to “Afro American Child” reveals Baraka’s voice emerging to intertwine sweetly with Rocco John Iacovone’s dreamy, lyrical playing. The song of a young child’s experiences growing up, the sights, the sounds, the people, the culture. Like so much of Baraka’s poetry on this album, “Afro American Child” calls upon both the subjective memory of the individual as well as the deep collective memory of the people. With her vivid description of Black cultural life, Baraka sets up a duality, exploring the ways in which our cultural creativity thrives through contradiction. “… People who could create both the Gospel and the Blues … and did. People who could pray AND cuss … and did!” Her tone here is bitter and sweet, determined but loving. “Talking Drum” drum and vocal piece in which John Pietaro solos brilliantly as Baraka, lacovone, Pietaro and saxophonist Ras Moshe Burnett evoke the names of some of music’s rhythm masters: Tony Williams, Philly Joe Jones, Olatunji, Max Roach and many more. Tracks like “Talking Drum”, “Jayne Cortez” and the gorgeous ballad-like “Real Dreams” are standouts on an album that beautifully mines the deep well of memory while playing tribute to the beauty of our shared cultural ancestry.” - John Morrison

— CD Review: JAZZ RIGHT NOW

____________________________________________________________________________________ AMINA BARAKA & THE RED MICROPHONE (ESP-Disk) Amina Baraka's holding a megaphone on the cover, but she hardly needs it at all – given the righteous power of her voice on this album – still completely amazing after all these years! The album follows in the best tradition of work started by Amiri Baraka back in the 60s – a mixture of spoken knowledge and avant jazz, with backing by a group that includes Ras Moshe Burnett on tenor and flute, Rocco John Iacavone on curved soprano sax and piano, John Pietaro on drums and percussion, and Laurie Towers on bass. The approach is wonderful – and the record really feels like some lost underground relic of the 70s, the sort that the ESP label might have issued back in the day. Titles include "The Fascist", "Time Step", "The Spirit Of Billy BAng", "For Margaret Walker Alexander", and "Afro American Child". © 1996-2017, Dusty Groove, Inc.”

CD review: Dusty Groove

________________________________________________________________________________________ Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone (ESP-Disk’) by Clifford Allen Because it is an inherently generative music, creative improvisation has a bond with activism, revolutionary politics and the potential to improve people’s lives. The top-down power structures that have attempted to stymie people of color, women, queer people, the destitute and children have no place in a creative environment. But these structures do give both ammunition and reflective opportunity to the artistsoldiers who have spent decades in the trenches. Somewhat obscured by the notoriety of her late husband, the poet and activist Amiri Baraka (1934- 2014), Amina Baraka took on a similar role in her homebase of Newark, publishing her first volume of poetry the year of Amiri’s death and now performing and recording with improvising musicians. On this first full-length recording of her work, Baraka is joined by The Red Microphone, a quartet of drummer John Pietaro, reed players Ras Moshe Burnett and Rocco John Iacovone (doubling on piano) and electric bassist Laurie Towers, surrounding and feeding her vocal delivery on nine original compositions. Baraka’s poetic exhortations stride reverential history, black experience, political adversaries (the more things change…) and reflections on being and identity (“The Things I Love”—quality meals out, Communism and Coltrane all share space). “Afro American Child” is the disc’s centerpiece, just shy of 20 minutes in length, and begins wistful and sharp over a rolling bass, brushes and bluesy piano filigree, Baraka setting images of rural simplicity against the collective muscle of the Civil Rights Movement. The ensemble is liquid and vast, Burnett’s tenor shouting, purring and squealing as a constant nudge to gravelly, bright depictions of a life in music, art and the unionized working class, Pietaro switching to sticks and filling out a snappy rhythmic pulse, the entire piece exuberant but deadly serious. “Talking Drum” is a dialogue with Pietaro, charging through a list of jazz percussion forebears while “For Margaret Walker Alexander” is crackling and scruffy, loosely-nattering horns atop a rubbery walk as Baraka stitches together a fiery hymn to the late writer and thinker. With a deeply personal sense of caterwaul, Baraka and The Red Microphone create an invigorating addition to the landscape of musical culture.” - Clifford Allen

CD Review: NYC Jazz Record

_________________________________________________________________________________ AMINA BARAKA & THE RED MICROPHONE by Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone If you want fiery poetry reminiscent of Jayne Cortez (there’s a tribute piece on this CD to her) and Amiri Baraka pick up Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone on ESP records and get your mind blown by their strength of conviction to poetry, music, justice and life. The group consists of five stellar musicians including John Pietaro on percussion, Ras Moshe Burnett and Rocco Iacovone on reeds and Laurie Towers on bass. The music fits perfectly with the vocals as Amina sings, chants and performs strong positive poetry and rants. The poems include other tributes such as "The Spirit of Billy Bang" for the late great violinist and "For Margaret Walker Alexander" and poems such as "The Things I Love" which lists just that. Other heavy, engrossing and rhytmic pieces include "Talking Drums" and "Real Dreams." And if you want to delve even further into what has happened to America just turn up the volume on the final track which says it all "The Fascist. My only regret is that the words to all these pieces are not on the CD.” - Steve Dalachinsky

CD review: Galatea Resurrects blog

______________________________________________________________________________________ Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone (ESP-Disk, 2017) **** Thursday, July 20, 2017 Poetry In Jazz By Paul Acquaro Poet and activist Amina Baraka, has just released, I believe, her first recording on the storied ESP-Disk label. Her album of spoken word and inside/outside jazz is a spot-on debut, drawing deeply on her life, culture, and politics. Baraka is the widow of writer, activist, and music critic, Amiri Baraka, mother of current Newark, NJ mayor Ras Baraka, and has a lot to talk about. It starts with a simple melody on piano, then sax, propelled by a straight-ahead drum beat, Baraka lets out a blood curdling scream matched tonally by the flute and sax, who help her land on the phrase 'Mama cries time step’. He words are sharp and clear, and her tone somewhere between scolding and excited. I still haven't figured out what all the words mean on this one, but I don't mind, the words fly by, syllables to be savored, and meanings to mull. The gun-slinger metaphor for Billy Bang’s playing in 'The Spirit of Billy Bang’, however, I get. Along with the spare accompaniment from bassist Laurie Towers, it's a parable about the late violinist - or maybe it is about the woman playing the bass - or maybe again its about the free associations and sumptuous imagery that end up meaning more that way, anyway. The rest of the band re-joins on 'Things I Like', woodwindists Ras Moshe Burnett and Rocco John Iacovone (also on piano), drummer John Pietaro and Towers start in on a relaxed lounge number as Baraka cites things that she likes: a Monk tune, Albert Ayler's Ghost, Henry Fonda, a People's War, a Revolution, and sushi, among life's other pleasures. Later, over a caressing blues, Baraka reminisces about growing up on 'Afro American Child'. It's a tribute to the past and the hard truths of growing up, going from memories of “men in striped suits and big country hats” to “women standing over the stove frying chicken, one hand on the small of they back” but as time moves on, the music grows wilder, and memories turn to “growing up, taking rides in rich people’s neighborhoods” and then to “we grew up without civil rights … marching with Dr. King … knowing we couldn’t turn the other cheek”. This is a twenty minute free associative tour de force of American history, through the words of someone who lived it. It’s a reminder of where we have come from, and how much further there is to go. The music and words mix and feed off each other, reflecting each other's intensity and meaning, a quote from a Monk tune or the C-Jam blues may suddenly appear, and so may a passage as free as it comes. While I’ve only made it about halfway through the album here, perhaps a little more, there's more to take in, especially later as the past turns to the present on 'Fascists'. With her sometimes acidic, sometimes sweet, but always on point lyrics, Baraka and her band of like minded travelers have delivered an unexpected gem.” - Paul Acquaro

CD Review: The Free Jazz Blog

_______________________________________________ CD Review: HARMOLODIC MONK, "Sound Guardian " magazine (Croatia). The title says it all! It reminds us of two jazz musicians who have marked the genre musical with innovation and distinctive authoritative work: saxophonist Ornette Coleman and pianist Thelonious Monk. While both early career met with incomprehension, even neglect, today they are celebrated as giants. Monk is one of the greatest composers in history of jazz, an author of a wealth of songs that have become jazz standards. His creativity is still an inspiration for new generations of jazz - and not only jazz musicians. Many of them are recorded themed albums with his compositions, among others the famous soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, who was a great admirer of his work. One of the most important representatives of free-jazz, Coleman founded his own musical concept - philosophy - which he called Harmolodics, and based it on his own composition/improvisation principles. Multi-instrumentalists Matt Lavelle and John Pietaro decided to record a theme album that honors both. The Monk's works are processed in a manner close to Coleman harmolodics concept. The template for improvisation are found in some of Monk's most famous songs: "Epistrophy", "Pannonica", "'Round Midnight", "Crepescule With Nellie", "Ruby My Dear", "Blue Monk", "Monk's Mood" and "In Walked Bud ", but also those less known to a wider circle of listeners, such as" Green Chimneys "and" Let's Cool One ". In addition to the musical setting, Lavelle, who plays cornet, flugelhorn and alto clarinet, and Pietaro, who plays the vibraphone, bodhran (Irish drum similar to the Arabic instruments related defu), congas and percussion, their approach is based on the philosophy of a grand music. For example, there is the significant Coleman's story about his appearance at the psychiatric ward of a hospital when, looking at the audience, he could not distinguish between physicians from patients, as well as Bartok's belief that new music has to be deeply rooted in folk music, the world's musical heritage. All these experiences and consolidate completely in their vision of contemporary improvised music. Although they are virtuosos who play musical instruments, that aspect is secondary. Primary is a new approach to standards, sound research, communication and interaction. This is music that we would be happy to listen to at the upcoming Zagreb Biennial. - Davor Hrvoj, Sound Guardian” - Davor Hrvoj

— CD Review: "Sound Guardian" (Croatia)

____________________________________________ CD Review: HARMOLODIC MONK, "Highland Magazine" (Belgium) Emblematic of bebop , growing out of stride piano playing including ragtime styles, Thelonious Monk is a jazz legend, a prolific composer and improviser of the highest level . He remains, in fact, a continual source of inspiration. How do we then distinguish from the various tributes to his glory? Lavelle and Pietaro have the solution, applying Ornette Coleman 's Harmolodic theory to this music. Explaining this seeming arcane musical vision is the challenge. It consists of a fusion of harmony and melody in a polyphony sans the usual constrictions. In a free jazz approach, this allows for more than one musician playing the same melody but starting at different pitches, so tonality per-se doesn't govern the music but instead tones, rhythm, melody, tempo are all equal, which Ornette calls unison. And what could be more natural than to see multi-instrumentalist Matt Lavelle present in this project? It is indeed his time with Ornette Coleman, which makes him all the more legitimate to carry this adventure. Playing in turn cornet , flugelhorn, pocket trumpet and alto clarinet, Lavelle is joined by John Pietaro on vibes, congas, percussion and the Irish drum known as the bodhran. Ambitious and promising ... Epistrophy: The spooky atmosphere gives us a glimpse of this concept as Lavelle holds the melody from the top of his clarinet and Pietaro digresses nicely with percussion, together forming an inseparable whole . Captivating, enhanced by mic'ing closer to the instrumentalists. This complex piece is tamed for us and all its subtlety is revealed. Pannonica follows this line, with a more digressive Lavelle, though again in a harmonious musical symbiosis. Green Chimneys brings color to the music, thanks to almost tribal percussion followed by a warm flugelhorn at every turn. Round Midnight is also fascinating with the first vibraphone alone, suspending the time for three minutes, seemingly more traditional yet still so ethereal. A no less excellent version of a Monk title is Crepuscule With Nellie featuring a break in improvisation that is close enough to the original to be sobering . Lavelle grants himself the right to play solo, shattering everything with musical brilliance. If Monk fans are skeptical of the ownership of these titles, this should settle them! Ruby My Dear has the same relevance to original melody, but this time it's Pietaro's vibraphone. Equally adept, he repeats the feat by remaining close to the original while applying the theory of harmolodics solo! The result is even more convincing! Let's Cool One is somewhat less powerful in its rendering, needing a more striking arrival. Due to its length (nearly 10 minutes), Blue Monk is the most difficult of pieces to grasp. With Lavelle resolutely putting free jazz forward, some listeners may want to leave it on the side of the road on the way. However, if one perseveres , the experience is truly rich and powerful. The most whimsical moment arrives with Monk's Mood. With his famous bodhran, Pietaro breathes a different atmosphere into the proceedings, a world music approach, differently from Lavelle is doing. Pietaro plays his instrument fiercely, playing each breath to emit sounds that are amazingly refreshing and gratifying! In Walked Bud closes the album as it began, a harmolodic replica. A beautiful finale. The bet was risky but it pays off: The formation of a charismatic duo - Lavelle and Pietaro keep their original commitment. Sublimely produced by Jack DeSalvo, HARMOLODIC MONK is a beautiful album. Monk fans may not appreciate everything, but that's what makes it so much than just a tribute Since it may be difficult to approach for the uninitiated it deserves a good listening because the effort is worth the reward. Though a tad long it lacks nothing in inspiration to keep us constantly surprised . You'll enjoy a great experience finding out! - Axel Scheyder” - Axel Scheyder

— cd review: "Highland Magazine" (Belgium)

__________________________________________________________ CD Review: Harmolodic Monk (Unseen Rain Records) by Mark S. Tucker Unlike so many past masters tributes which feature some of the subject writer's work, then a smattering of tunes cherished by the deceased mainman, and finally cuts written by the tributees, Matt Lavelle and John Pietaro's Harmolodic Monk is 100% Thelonius cuts stretched and refabricated by a horn player and percussionist stripping everything down to bare essentials before getting melodically and environmentally inventive. The baseline is Monk's mind and work, the rest is a matter of their own chops and cerebrations. The ultra-moody and atmospheric Epistrophy kicks the slab off, giving a clear indication of just what the listener is in for…and I'll warn right now that if you can't tune, de-tune, and re-tune your brain and ears, this is not the disc for you. In the tradition of the more outside Enja, Ogun, and other labels' works, then the spirit of Lol Coxhill, Anthony Braxton, and of course Ornette Coleman, whose unorthodox talents continue to pervade and open up the extremities of aesthetics, this duo adeptly embraces what a promo sheet writer cited as "the dichotomy of ancient pre-Western approaches and extreme modernism". I tried my best to upend or at least modify that appraisal but couldn't. Whoever that cat was, he nailed it to the wall, then put a frame around it. There is indeed a wide time-span of prototypes, influences, and expansions present, sometimes bewilderingly so as things morph and bend. Pannonica is particularly apt, at one moment sounding like the bell music of Alain Kremski (Pietaro and his wondrous vibes), then a boozy Louis Armstrong (Lavelle's ever-changing horns) leading into a stream-of-consciousness section. All the cuts flow in that fashion, the listener not for a moment let to wander but instead led from one intriguing section to the next, never knowing what will come but alive and alert for whatever may arise. Harmolodic, if I haven't made it clear, is free jazz, improvisational to a fault but based in previously set work. I suspect that if Lester Bowie and his Art Ensemble were forced to pare down to a duet, the result would be very much like this. produced the disc but his brother Jim is the engineer, and Jim's capture of everything is arresting: clear, lucid, adroitly attuned to shifting focal depths, never at a loss, providing everything this work needed to entablature itself with zero ambivalence. The holidays are over, y'all: heave the tabernacle choirs and E-Z jazz fluff and get back to deepening the crenellations in your grey matter.” - Mark S. Tucker

CD Review: ACOUSTIC MUSIC blog