Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger address cultural issues from lockdown on Force Majeure | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger address cultural issues from lockdown on Force Majeure

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For the past few months, bassist Dezron Douglas and harpist Brandee Younger have dealt with the necessity of social distancing with their own kind of intimate gigs: a series of quietly uplifting performances streamed live through a shared microphone from their Manhattan apartment. Force Majeure collects a dozen of these songs along with brief, perceptive spoken-word asides that address cultural issues such as music’s role in the Black Lives Matter movement. Before the pandemic, Douglas and Younger worked in a wide array of contexts: They’ve both played with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and on Makaya McCraven’s 2018 album Universal Beings. Douglas has led his Black Lion ensemble and also served as a sideman to such jazz legends as saxophonists Jackie McLean and Pharoah Sanders. Younger has led her own quartet, and her composition “Hortense” appeared in the 2019 Beyoncé documentary Homecoming. These experiences have given them a similarly diverse battery of resources, and the idiomatic juxtapositions in their repertoire blend them together lyrically. Younger’s glissandos combine with Douglas’s assertive rhythms to make the Sanders/Leon Thomas free-jazz spiritual “The Creator Has a Master Plan” fit in alongside the heft they bring to the cheery 1970s Sesame Street song “Sing” (which the Carpenters turned into a hit). While Younger channels the lead voices on the Jackson Five’s “Never Can Say Goodbye,” Douglas creates a fitting countermelody using a technique that nods to classic Motown bassists such as James Jamerson. They also upend the conventional roles of their instruments on Alice Coltrane’s “Gospel Trane,” as Younger turns propulsive to support Douglas’s lead. Their only original composition on the album, the closing “Toilet Paper Romance,” is an easygoing wordless conversation that evokes a couple sticking together through the minutiae of an ongoing crisis.   v

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