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Sam Anning - Earthen (Earshift Music)

2 April 2024

Though he made his bones as a go-to hired gun in the Australian jazz scene, bassist Sam Anning also spend three years backing up beloved Gunditjamara/Bundjalung singer, songwriter, and Aboriginal activist Archie Roach, who died in 2022. Like so many of his fellow Australians, Anning found the award-winning tunesmith inspiring, inducing him to pay tribute to his old boss with Earthen, his third album as a leader. Rather than cover Roach’s music, Anning instead comes up with his own tunes, taking the songwriter’s words – “Music comes from the earth and these instruments carry it, and it goes back to the earth” – to heart by using his personal creativity instead of borrowing someone else’s. To that end, Anning’s melodies tend toward the spiritual, balancing the melancholy of his great inspiration being no longer of this earth with the joy in the influence he left behind. Anning and his septet range from the atmospheric sound poetry of “Moonland” and “Eleventy Million (for Auggie Bruten)” to the tense postbop of “Kicking Not Screaming” and Uvalde,” an update to the social commentary that always drove Roach’s work. Beautiful, unsettling, thought-provoking, and mystical, Earthen pays tribute to Roach’s spirit while staying true to Anning’s vision.