Marlene Rosenberg

MLK Convergence
(Origin)

MLK Convergence showcases Chicago bass stalwart Marlene Rosenberg’s muscular sound, rock-steady time and imaginative solo ideas far better than her first Origin recording, 2012’s Bassprint. The title of this recent recording comes from the “convergence” of Dr. King’s initials with those of her star-studded trio—Marlene, Lewis (Nash) and Kenny (Barron). It’s also an allusion to the album’s affirmative theme of social justice.

Hope emanates from Stevie Wonder’s “Visions,” with Rosenberg poignantly bowing the melody, and “Love’s In Need Of Love Today,” which makes for a moving closer. The calls for equality and peace ring out among a litany of all too familiar outrages, rapped by Rosenberg and guests Thomas Burrell and Robert Irving III, with Christian McBride joining the bandleader in a vigorous tandem showcase. McBride also guests on “And Still We Rise,” a funky, sharply executed Rosenberg tune featuring another bass duet. Its title’s also a sort of pun on a Maya Angelou poem (“And Still I Rise”) and on the irony of bass players taking the top line. That track and Rosenberg’s poignant rendition of Barron’s gorgeous ballad “Rain” are the album’s best, with her bright, uptempo tune “The Line Between” inspired by the marches in Selma, Alabama, not far behind.

Elsewhere, the album flags a bit, certainly not because of the playing—the trio meshes organically and swings mightily—but because Rosenberg’s other tunes lack the kind of definition and framing that catch the ear. Still, it’s a strong album with a timely and welcome theme.