Darryl Yokley’s Sound Reformation

Pictures At An African Exhibition
(Truth Revolution Recording Collective)

Designed as a narrative supported by 13 works from British visual artist David Emmanuel Noel, Pictures At An African Exhibition engages in tracing the history of humankind through song.

Based on Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition, which the pianist wrote after visiting a museum and used what hung in galleries as a starting point, saxophonist Darryl Yokley claims the concept in order to compose a corrective history of humankind while nakedly shuttling emotion through his instrument. Even if the album weren’t conceptually solid, the large ensemble—replete with flutes, clarinets, a bassoon and a guest spot by drummer Nasheet Waits—convincingly moves through jazz styles, touching on bop, getting free for a bit and exploring big band sounds.

The album opens with a triumphant melody from Yokley on “First Sunrise,” a track that’s meant to illuminate the dawn of human history. Thematically moving across centuries, the saxophonist leads his group through works aimed at elucidating African philosophy and life in a small village, before addressing the horrors of human beings hunting and enslaving each other, and examining the fallout from exploitative mining—both the environmental toll and laborers’ suffering.

Yokely’s compositions—even amid political discourse and analyses of the jazz genre—are strong enough to tie together the seemingly disjointed works of art at the heart of Pictures At An African Exhibition.

On Sale Now
January 2023
Fred Hersch & esperanza spalding
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