Jazz Codes

Moor Mother

Jazz Codes

Alongside Moor Mother’s 2021 album, Black Encyclopedia of the Air, Jazz Codes explores the question of how accessible a generally inaccessible artist can get without sacrificing the density of their ideas. It isn’t to say it’s easy music (45 tightly collaged minutes of spoken word, free jazz, electronic loops, and fragmentary hip-hop)—only that it makes space for the listener in ways she hasn’t always in the past. Given the album’s subject matter—jazz history, the nature and place of Black art—it’s easy to hear the shift as one from personal expression to stewardship and communication: She wants you to understand where she’s coming from as a gesture of respect to those who came before, whether Woody Shaw (“WOODY SHAW”), Mary Lou Williams (“ODE TO MARY”), or Joe McPhee (“JOE MCPHEE NATION TIME”). Her fellow travelers—multi-hyphenate Black artists like AKAI SOLO and Melanie Charles—show you she isn’t alone. And while the difficulty lingers, it gets explicit purpose, courtesy of professor, artist, and activist Thomas Stanley on the outro: “Ultimately, perhaps, it is good that people abandoned jazz/Replaced it with musical products better-suited to capitalism’s designs/Now jazz jumps up like Lazarus if we allow it, to rediscover itself as a living music.”

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