'Soul Force' is Noah Baerman's fourth album under his own name, and the first to feature an ensemble larger than a trio. Trombonist Robin Eubanks and saxophonists Steve Wilson, Jimmy Greene, Wayne Escoffery and Claire Daly make up the horn section. Other guests include Amanda Monaco on guitar, Warren Smith on marimba and Tigger Benford on percussion, as well as percussionist Marcos Torres, III and guitarist Rebecca Koval, two teenaged musicians making their recorded debuts. Anchoring the band and joining Noah for several trio numbers are bassist Henry Lugo and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, the current member of Noah's trio. On 'Soul Force,' these accomplished musicians help Noah to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life and message. The soulful, eclectic material revolves around Noah's composing and arranging.' The title track, which features Wilson and Eubanks, was premiered on Noah's 2005 'Piano Jazz' broadcast with Marian McPartland and doubles as a dedication to the recently departed pianist James Williams. 'Montgomery, 1956' is an ambitious and programmatic piece for a 12-piece ensemble, while both 'Washington, 1963' and 'Memphis, 1968' explore whisper-to-a-scream dynamic contrasts. Noah's rousing Afro-Latin arrangement of Stevie Wonder's 'Happy Birthday' (a theme song from the campaign to commemorate MLK with a national holiday) leans heavily on percussion, as does 'Satyagrahi,' featuring Tigger Benford's tablas. More familiar tunes include Thelonious Monk's 'Justice' (sometimes known as 'Evidence'), and the spirituals 'This Little Light of Mine' and '(Ain't Gonna Let Nobody) Turn Me 'Round.' As with the ideas and events that inspired the music, the expressive range of the music is broad, evoking delicate tenderness, gutbucket soul, unbridled passion and at times unsettling darkness. The cumulative effect is an exhilarating musical and emotional experience. ABOUT NOAH BAERMAN: Jazz pianist, composer, educator and author Noah Baerman continues to fight physical obstacles to remain musically active and vibrant. In the 1990s, he earned B.M. and M.M. degrees in Jazz Studies from Rutgers University under the tutelage of Kenny Barron. His 2003 release 'Patch Kit' featured bassist Ron Carter and drummer Ben Riley and garnered wide acclaim both for the music and for the message. 'Patch Kit' served as a means of raising awareness of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a degenerative condition from which Noah suffers, and as a benefit album for the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation. It also attracted the attention of legendary pianist Marian McPartland, who invited Noah to be a guest on her NPR program 'Piano Jazz.' Noah is active as an educator and has written eight books and an instructional DVD for the Alfred Publishing Company. In addition to maintaining an active private teaching studio, Noah is on the faculties of Central Connecticut State University, Charter Oak State College and Wesleyan University's Graduate Liberal Studies Program.
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