'Silence is betrayal': the jazz musicians putting the political into their playing

From Martin Luther King to Hendrix, and New Orleans to Bengal, jazz musicians are examining history, power, politics and even identity in radical and vital music

Martin Luther King’s baritone voice booms over the PA. “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” he hollers, in an extract from a 1967 speech. His words “silence is betrayal” are looped and repeated until they become a political mantra. We’re at a London jazz festival gig in Shoreditch, and three US musicians – drummer Jaimeo Brown, alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and guitarist Chris Sholar – are improvising in front of a cinema screen, accompanying sepia-tinted images of Africa (deserts, elephants, mosques, temples), ancient field recordings of chaingang hollers, recreations of slave songs and prescient pronouncements from King. Amid this multimedia barrage, Brown’s trio make music that mixes Afrobeat rhythms, primeval blues riffs and a kind of aqueous, ambient jazz associated with Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way.

Related: Miles Davis – 10 of the best

Continue reading…

For more details, click on: 'Silence is betrayal': the jazz musicians putting the political into their playing