Damnation of Memory – JP3, James Powers Trio – PJCE Records (2021)
A friend of mine tells the story of when he purchased Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew in 1970 he believed it was damaged and tried to return it to the music store. He was expecting another Kind of Blue and hadn’t yet caught up with In a Silent Way. The owner handed it back to him and explained that to properly appreciate the ground breaking recording he would need to expand the space between his ears. Perception is trained by experience. We see what we expect to see. Likewise, we hear what we expect to hear.
I had a similar initial response to James Powers’ Damnation of Memory. This high octane and free wheeling debut release reflects the wide range of Powers’ immersion in the Portland, Oregon music scene where he has been influenced by rock, soul, funk, punk, grunge and hip-hop, all which he has translated into jazz. James Powers is from a musical family and inherited his love of the trombone from his father, who is his most enthusiastic fan. But while James is one to respect his elders and teachers, he is intent on taking the music to another place.
Powers composed all of the tracks on Damnation except Deep River which is an African-American spiritual popularized by black composer Henry Burleigh in his 1916 collection Jubilee Songs of the USA. Just by naming one track Victoria Woodhull Powers motivates his listeners to check out that remarkable woman who, among other things, ran for president of the United States in 1872, almost half a century before she would have the right to vote.
This is a big sound fueled by big talent. His collaborators, composers in there own right, bring a range of unique skills to this project. Powers’ trombone is by turns lyrical, dynamic, muted and devilishly synthesized. Experience is always guided by that damn memory. I have not tried to return this CD to the store. After repeated exposures James Powers has expanded the space between my ears.
— Casey Bush
James Powers – trombone
Matthew Holmes – electric bass
Machado Mijiga – drums
David Barber – vocals (track 6)
Stand Up Guy (10:28)
Damnation of Memory (9:18)
Ride the Onion Garden with Us and Fly (7:05)
Victoria Woodhull (9:16)
Deep River (7:13)
POETIC RESPONSE – by Casey Bush
are there really any unnecessary freedoms?
don’t hold such thoughts too tight
until you can nudge the edge of this space
leave pie in that sky
coat with a turned up collar
sugar plum asymmetry
endless days forever young
stars beyond our reach
the glass blower’s tears become
a deluge of methane rain
flooding the purple plains of Neptune
tectonic plates worn thin from dancing
in a room without a door
don’t chew those apple cores
but if you do, spit out the seeds
gravity flips the compost
footprints on the beach disappear
with the incoming tide