Review by Brad WalsethWelcome to the dark carnival - the dark carnival that is our modern world - a place where fun mingles with terror - a world where people sleepwalk through their days without noticing the screams in the shadows. Trombonist and composer Chris Washburne wants to wake us out of our slumber using "postmodern Latin jazz that embraces dissonance." He wants us to "dance to the rhythms" because "Moving your body can be an act of resistance." Fortunately, he and his cohorts in the SYOTOS Band have provided a brilliantly charged soundtrack to this carnival that is sure to wake the brain-dead and snap them, if only momentarily, out of their dangerously comotose "Land of Nod."
The colors of the American flag have paled in Washburne's eyes and the first three tunes are called "Pink," "Off White," and "Blue Gust" to reflect this belief. Superb soloists - led by Washburne's marvelous trombone work, let fly over the intriguingly danceable rhythms. Trumpeter John Walsh, Tenor Sax (and Clarinet) player Ole Mathisen and pianist Barry Olsen join Washburne in raving against the status quo through their smoldering riffs as if they want to incinerate the system through their music. Mathisen's "Op-Ed" is a revolution in motion and his solo is exciting and frightening in its revelations. The band slows the pace with a stunningly beautiful retelling of the Ukranian folk song - "Hyrts, Don't Go to Village Dances" - reminding us of our shared responsibility for our Eastern European brothers, who dwell in poverty, misery and instability.
"Guantanamo" follows and uses shifting Afro-Cuban musical forms, a Greek Chorus of horns and Walsh's angry muted trumpet to make a point about an immoral, illegal situation taking place nearly inside our borders - seemingly outside our blinders. "Land of Nod"'s piano mocks, while the taunting theme dares the sleepers to awake. Walsh again provides a stinging rebuke, while Olsen offers the promise of sanity in chaos in his solo. Washburne has the final word and it is a solo of wonderful strength and passion. Throughout, Leo Traversa on bass, and Vince Cherico on drums, and Chembo Corniel on congas provide volcanic rhythm.
"Peace" is offered twice - first Ornette Coleman's - with stunning solos by Washburne and Mathisen again. Then Horace Silver's lovely composition, with Washburne displaying his ability to play smooth, quiet and rend your heart, ends this intense recording in a contemplative mood. Washburne (who originally studied at the University of Wisconsin) is currently a professor of music at Columbia, and is one of the most intelligent and interesting thinkers in modern music, as well as being perhaps the most important trombonist performing today. Ultimately, this recording is grave, yet fun; exhilarating, yet with an undercurrent of great sadness; intricate music that energizes and makes you think even while you tap your foot.