Review by: Melissa Berry
Joe Sample "Children Of The Sun" and NDR Bigband Orchestra.
Record Label: PRA
Joe Sample’s new release - “Children of the Sun” –
An Historical Tribute Musically and Spiritually.
Jazz great, Joe Sample, may have left us this past September, but he is still providing us with his jazz insights and personal reflections on life and music. Such is the case with his newest release, “Children of the Sun”/Joe Sample & NDR Bigband. This is his thoughtful tribute to time spent performing at the St. Croix Jazz Festival in the Virgin Islands in 1995.
“After the Festival, I stayed on for a few days to do some sightseeing and exploring. I was struck by the contrast between the tranquil solitude and brutal reality of the islands history.”
It was this history that inspired his music on “Children of the Sun” which opens with the deceptively upbeat opening tune, “I Wanna Go Home.” Sample gracefully reflects on this when speaking of his inspiration for this album, “The Islands were highly prized by early Europeans for their natural sugar cane and (therefore) rum. A tremendous slave trade developed around the farming and processing of this cane…this period of slavery is often called “the middle passage.”
The idea of this being time being named “the middle passage” makes the title of the album’s first song, “I Wanna Go Home,” filled with myriad possibilities since it begins the album. It opens with the wonderful beat of a kind of a marching band, yet syncopated and immediately joined by boisterous brass. Then, with this established, a melody flits through becoming a wistful reverie, but only briefly. Then, back to the hopeful marching beat making this a truly narrative piece of music. Hope under adversity and music as a common denominator.
Another piece entitled “Islands of the MInd” is as thoughtful as the title suggests. It opens with a trombone speaking to us in a sort of recitative and continues to take us on a peaceful musical journey.
Sample explains the historical narrative he creates with this album as something that happened to him on this trip, yet he carried around before actually creating what we’re listening to.
“Subconsciously, as often happened for me, themes and melodies began to form in my mind that kept bringing me back to the time and place. I knew this would have be more than just another recording and those ideas seemed to flow with me for the longest time. When Nils asked me to create for the NDR Bigband, I realized it was time. I felt a larger group would best generate the power the music the emotion and spiritual instincts that a slave would need to survive. I realized I had been writing this music since the spring of ’95. African-American writers have for years referred to those early slaves as ‘Children of the Sun.’ This is my tribute to them.”
Sample’s “Children of the Sun” shines a very bright light on a very dark part of our history with his wonderful music coupled with the joy of the big band sound – a much-appreciated addition for musical addition for all Sample fans.