The experience of listening to jazz is so stimulating and engaging on purely sonic and rhythmic levels, so it’s easy to overlook the genre’s powerful history as a tool, and sometimes a joyous, inspiring, bullhorn – for sociopolitical change. Because it’s all about sustainability and the future of our lives and the lives of future generation, no issue is more crucial to address and confront these days than climate change. For all the meaningful policies governments of the world can enact, there’s something about the way music bridges cultural divides that can inspire and motivate action on a more personal level as well.
Commissioned by the Tallberg Foundation, saxophonist Marco Pignataro’s emotionally and viscerally impactful Chant for Our Planet is much more than a soulful, harmonically and rhythmically eclectic work dedicated to and influenced by the cause. Both figuratively and at one point literally – with a breathless, poetic spoken word piece by vocalist Nadia Washington on the colletion’s title track and coda – it’s perhaps one of jazz’s most powerful call to arms on the issue yet.
To flesh out his vision of a multi-faceted musical presentation tackling a multitude of themes, Pignataro assembled a unique ensemble that includes legendary jazz figures (John Patitucci, Terri Lyne Carrington, Joe Lovano), in addition to Washington and pianist Anastassya Petrova, who are alumni and faculty at the Pignataro and Danilo Perez led Berklee Global Jazz Institute. As a pure listening experience, Chant for Our Planet is exciting, adventurous and sonic and rhythmic surprise filled even without connecting to the originals (including the Pattitucci penned three song Suite Terra and Pignataro’s expansive musical meditation “Moon Threads”) and fresh re-imaginings of “Agua De Beber” and “Nature Boy” to the higher theme of the work.
Yet each piece was created or selected to represent an aspect of what the planet is facing – the basic elements of earth, the importance of proper water management, the way the moon affects the increasingly rising tides, and, on Lovano’s alternately dreamy and bustling “As It Should Be,” the hope that humans can still make a difference via hope, love and compassion, Perhaps the most fascinating piece is Pignataro’s percussive, high energy and ultra-chaotic “On Irene’s Path,” which offers a play by play interpretation of the destruction and aftermath caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011. It’s just one track about a single hurricane – yet speaks to the increasing destructive powers of nature that are will continue to hurt and kill us if more concrete action is not taken.