The history of the indigenous people of Turtle island, aka North America, is one about collaboration with new comers and their ancestors who helped settlers survive in this new land, often accommodating them and forming important alliances in times of war. Of course there were also betrayals and brutal acts, and as the numbers of newcomers swelled, old alliances were often forgone while tactics of assimilation and chauvinistic outlooks prevailed on the part of the new population. Ideas of Manifest Destiny and such led to bitter wars and shameful massacres, such as the one at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in December 1890. It is this historical backdrop that is evoked here by drummer Scott Clark’s quartet in this release.
Beginning with a mournful and lyrical trumpet plea in a piece called “Broken Treaties” and ending with the pulsating and equally lyrical “Remembrance,” this set of six pieces, compositions filled with passionate and powerful improvisations, commemorate the resistance and lamentable defeats of the Native Americans. Of Native American ancestry, Clark has penned pieces that incorporate traditional melodic strains and throbbing rhythms. His band mates, Cameron Ralston on bass, Jason Scott on saxophone and Bob Miller on trumpet collaborate sensitively to make the epic come alive.
The mournful opener is followed by an elegiac ‘Wounded Knee,” with its lonely bass melody setting up the drum/percussion-driven procession of long poignant trumpet/sax tones, segueing into the eerily martial “Little Crow’s War “, the chaotic and harsh “Big Horn” (appropriate given its allusion to the battle that happened at the Greasy Grass valley, aka Little Big Horn, in 1876), followed by a mournful aftermath announced again by the trumpet lyricism of “Sand Creek.”
This suite of six pieces is a respectful and musically rich evocation of the drama of the 19th century historical canvas, but it reminds us that history is still present and that the chapter in US history here alluded to, as Matthew E. White says in his liner notes, “is imperative to remember.” Clark does those who fell in the wake of the aforementioned aggression a great honor in penning this eloquent tribute.