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Caroline Davis’ Alula - Captivity (Ropeadope)

11 October 2023

The crossroads of jazz and social justice has been a thriving mini-universe for at least a century, thanks to Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Archie Shepp, and many, many others. Saxophonist Caroline Davis throws her hat into the ring with Captivity, the second album from her Alula project and her seventh as a leader. As might be surmised from the title, Captivity explores the lives of those incarcerated, specifically those falsely imprisoned (like Joyce Ann Brown, tributed in “the promise i made”), imprisoned for political purposes (Jalil Muntaqim in “synchronize my body where my mind has always been”), given sentences disproportionate to the crimes of which they were convicted (Galileo in “and yet it moves”), or dying in jail under mysterious circumstances (Sandra Bland in “put it on a poster”). Activist Susan Burton, who has worked for twenty-plus years on behalf of the falsely incarcerated, also gets a shout out with “i won’t be back.” Accompanied by Chris Tordini on both double and synth basses, Tyshawn Sorey on drums, and Val Jeanty on turntables and samples of speech from the above, Davis creates tunes that navigate nü-jazz and post bop, incorporating hip-hop electronics and free jazz into pieces that challenge listeners both aurally and intellectually. As befitting its subject matter, Captivity isn’t easy listening. But it’s a difficult journey worth taking.