Alex Coke, born in Dallas, Texas, an original member of the Creative Opportunity Orchestra, has performed with Tina Marsh in various formations for 22 years. For ten years he played and recorded with the internationally renowned Dutch jazz group, the Willem Breuker Kollektief. His various bands have included New Visions, the Live Action Brass Band, the Leadbelly Legacy Band, The Alex Coke/Paul Bollenback Duo, Jamad, and his post-bop quintet, The Worthy Constituents, a collaboration with longtime partner, pianist Rich Harney with Martin Banks on trumpet. He has worked with Gerald Wilson, Charles Tolliver, James Polk, Jay Rozen, the Paradise Regained Orchestra and the Trio Henk de Jonge. He can also be heard with the John Jordan Trio, the Mysterious Quartet From Helsinki featuring Chris Duarte, and Rob Verdurmen's Double Drummer Bill.
In the second track Sundown Man, the opening instruments give us sustained notes that allow us to get a treat from the guitar and drums that vibe with the energy of the other instruments. Notes that sound like someone crying out are heard with vigor and effectiveness. You get a picture of hard times and having to persevere. The high octane electric guitar performs with an intense rock sound. Even towards the end you get the same sustained note pattern heard at the beginning. This tune is based on the idea that prisoners worked until sundown.
The sixth track Danger Line gives you a full ensemble sound that has a nice feel. The saxophone performs with an incredible jazz vocabulary. You can hear the organ playing between sections. Alex Coke on tenor saxophone has an amazing bright sound that resonates in your ears. You can sense the exciting force of the whole tune that never lets up. The background instruments add to the intense atmosphere of the piece.
An instrumental introduction starts this tune in the eighth track, Longnecks and the Shah. There is some call and response between the instruments. The brass performs with an exotic sound and you can hear a singer at intervals. Some syncopation can be heard in the brass. The pianist reacts well with the vocalist who sings with incredible emotion. Towards the end, the percussion performs by itself and the drums have their own solo. Reminds you of the music you may have heard in a 1970s film.
Based on a traditional Iraqi song, the tenth track Yalli níSitouna(You Who Have Forgotten Us) begins with a nice chorus of voices with instruments accompanying them. A constant strong downbeat in triple meter gives the piece a well established pulse. Then you hear the low brass playing the melody. At certain points in this tune, all instruments and voices seem to be creating a cacophony of sound that sounds well together. Pat Murray does an outstanding job on the trumpet solo that speaks with the character and mood of this tune.
The twelfth track Straddle the Camel has a unique humorous, playful feel. This tune is a 7/4 bi-tonal blues that does an excellent job of depicting camels! It begins with Brian Allan soloing on trombone creating growling type effects while the piano is playing a constant pattern. The other background instruments do play the melody at times and you hear notes of all kinds. A very interesting piece indeed.
The intended goal of this album was to depict the human element that deals with social justice, human rights and peace. The varying tracks each add a piece to the overall theme of this album. Alex Coke does an excellent job once again of adding a cultural, ethnic component and you get an extraordinary music effect. This album also depicts war zones and prisons. The feel of jazz is still strong in certain areas on these tunes. You can really feel and picture real life themes by how the music sounds. Without even knowing what the album is about, you can hear it for yourself. Wake Up Dead Man and Iraqnophobia is a must listen to fans of jazz or anyone who understands the human condition.