A Free Jazz Treatise Concerning Current Affairs
is a curious paradox; in attempting a musical response to the today's world, the James Tartaglia Trio + Voices perform in a style that would've sounded derivative thirty years ago. Tartaglia credibly uses devices from the 1960s work of players like Pharaoh Sanders, Ornette Coleman and especially Albert Ayler, but seldom seems to go beyond that era. Although they play with energy and purpose, one gets the feeling that they are performing in a vacuum wherein David Murray, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Air and other inheritors of the genre (or even the later work of Mr. Coleman & Mr. Sanders) do not exist.
Bearing titles like "Paedophile Priest," "Weapons of Mass Destruction," "Peace Process" and the like, the five pieces (some presented in a second, live version) are explicitly programmatic and occasionally confrontational. "Priest," with its Aylerian use of a hymn-like theme, is extreme on both counts. The vocal here, suggesting young and presumably abused alter boys, is juvenile in a manner that the artists surely do not intend. Whatever their intention, this piece (played twice) represents an egregious lapse in taste--the "He Rose" theme is just an abysmal pun, something that perhaps a real pedophile might find humorous. "Peace Process" merely sounds busy, drummer Mark Huggett seemingly just thrashing around.
The two best songs on the CD, ironically, are the two most straight-ahead numbers and the only pieces played just once. "Asylum Seeker" and "Economic Migrant" reveal Tartaglia to be in possession of a fine lyrical tenor. It's too bad he squanders that gift elsewhere on the disc.
Not yet a train wreck, A Free Jazz Treatise Concerning Current Affairs
is as troubled as its subject matter. The trio plays with competence but lacks originality, while the voices are just grating. I'd suggest that Tartaglia & Co. bone up on jazz from the last three decades before proclaiming again their currency.