By Danny R. Johnson – Jazz and Pop Music Critic
“A Change Is Gonna Come” is a 1964 single by R&B singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, written and first recorded in 1963, and is just one of dozens of protest songs recorded and released, which came to exemplify the 1960s Civil Rights Movement’s protest against hunger, racism, poverty, and the Vietnam War. Grammy award-winning composer, multi-instrumentalist, trumpeter, music appreciation scholar, and teacher, Charlie Porter managed to successfully gather a group of talented musicians in creating a nine-track CD, “Hindsight,” which, like the protest music of the 1960s, draws attention to the people of the world who are overcoming struggles and who are peacefully protesting in the streets hoping for a change.
This is Charlie’s third album, and he enlisted a powerhouse crew of musicians, many of whom served as sidemen to countless musicians and principal performers in their rights and they include: Nick Biello, alto and soprano sax; Behn Gillece, vibraphone; Orrin Evans, piano and keyboards; David Wong, bass; Damian Erskine, electric bass; Kenneth Salters, drums; Jimmie Herrod, vocals; Rasheed Jamal, rap vocals; Majid Khaliq, violin; Bassekou Kouyate, n’goni (African traditional guitar); Mahamadou Tounkara, tama (African talking drum); the Hallowed Halls Gospel Choir; and of course, Charlie on trumpet.
Charlie made it clear that his mission in creating “Hindsight” was to “write and record music that deals with issues that takes us out of our comfort zone, issues which are, in a sense, antithetical to why many people listen to music to escape.” And this album sets the stage if you are interested in hearing a great band just breaking at the limits of what is presently on the contemporary jazz and world fusion music scene and hinting at a new way forward. “Hindsight” is not about memorable melodies on the themes. It is about aggressively deconstructing form, exploring the possibilities of rhythm, and intimate socially conscious communication between the musicians and their audience.
One of my favorites from the album is the opening “Tipping Point,” which Charlie describes as “a tune designed to turn and push the band to its temporal limits.” The selection has Wong on bass, Evans on keyboards/piano, and Charlie on trumpet, get down to business with the ensemble all kicking in loudly and clearly of something different. The sounds emanating from Biello’s impassionate sax, and Charlie’s galvanizing trumpet, hints that something is new, an upstart sound that would upset jazz purists far more than if you think you are listening to a rock record. Charlie used “Tipping Point” to draw the listener’s attention to the dire and irreversible changes in our climate system. To emphasize this threat, Charlie employs the opening and end as a launching pad for a vibrant matrix of staccato blasts, ascending arpeggios, tremolo swirls, and razor-sharp high notes. The drumming and percussions are enthusiastic, and Charlie governs the mood. For better or worse, the new jazz fusion revolution is alive and well in “Tipping Point.”
Charlie’s engrossing trumpet encroaches upon rock-like rhythms on all the selections, particularly on the “Things Fall Apart,” with superb vocals from Jimmie Herrod and Rasheed Jamal and “In Short Supply” tracks, which shows the world why he is an extraordinary world-class artist. Evans plays the piano throughout the CD with such precision and precise timing. It blows you away! While Wong plays the bass with thick and melodic grooves, but still maintains an innate ability to conceptualize the harmony and chords. Kouyate’s African guitar and Tounkara’s talking drums augments Charlie’s trumpet, Evans’ keyboards, and Gillece’s vibraphone so beautifully in the “Hindsight” track that you are transformed into an outer body melodic requiem.
“Hindsight” is truly a work of musical art dedicated to the men and women who have the nerve to stand up and speak truth to power. Like the previous two albums, “Prologue” and “Immigration Nation,” Charlie has proven once again why he will remain relevant for decades to come; and why he will be in the groove with the creation of musical stories that experiments with sounds and colors, layers of chromatic tones, cycles, and funky grooves.
For additional information on Charlie Porter’s musical journey, check out his website at https://www.charlieportermusic.com