First Listen: Portland's Max Ribner wows on "Not Free"

Photo credit: Rudy Gutierrez

(February 2, 2021) The logistics that trumpeter and flugel horn player Max Ribner went through to make his magisterial album 1st Language in the midst of a global pandemic can only be grasped when you consider the dimensions. The entire project includes a 10-piece horn section, 12-piece string section, and an eight-person gospel choir. The project includes the 11 track album, 1st Language and the video for the song “Not Free” that is highlighted in this First Listen. That video showcases a 10-member dance troupe in which half of the members are based and performed in Ghana and the other half are based in Portland, Oregon and performed there.

(February 2, 2021) The logistics that trumpeter and flugel horn player Max Ribner went through to make his magisterial album 1st Language in the midst of a global pandemic can only be grasped when you consider the dimensions. The entire project includes a 10-piece horn section, 12-piece string section, and an eight-person gospel choir. The project includes the 11 track album, 1st Language and the video for the song “Not Free” that is highlighted in this First Listen. That video showcases a 10-member dance troupe in which half of the members are based and performed in Ghana and the other half are based in Portland, Oregon and performed there.

What Ribner lacked in convenience he gained in inspiration because the year 2020 provided topics in spades. “Not Free” takes on the topic of mass incarceration and the historical criminalization for black bodies from the time of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to 21st Century America. The choice to have African dancers perform in a sparse dungeon-like place for the first part of the video while the Americans dancers performed in front of murals depicting the faces of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on the very same streets that were the scene of social justice protests last summer was nothing short of inspired.

“Not Free,” has Ribner’s hard charging improvisation on the horn taking off on a platform of funky bass and percussion, sweeping tempo changes that move from mournful violins to jazz fusion and power packed gospel infused vocals -- featuring the kind of social commentary and vibrant creativity that encapsulated the jazz fusion of the 1970s, and is right at home in 2021. Check out “Not Free” here.

By Howard Dukes

Max Ribner - "Not Free"

 

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