In a recent interview with Qwest, Chicago jazz artist Angel Bat Dawid discussed the importance of cultivating a tight bond with her bandmates. “We went grocery shopping and sat down and had a meal together like a real family,” the multi-instrumentalist and composer explained of her group’s recent trip to New York’s Winter Jazzfest. “The way we cook together is the way we play together, like everyone is trying to make the other person sound good.”
That sensitivity and compassion also pervade Dawid’s new album, The Oracle, but with one key difference: Nearly every sound you hear on the LP, from clarinets to keyboards, percussion and vocals, is the work of Dawid herself. Through skillful overdubbing, she makes these pieces — all recorded via cell phone — sound like the work of an especially sympathetic band.
On the exquisitely serene “We Are Starzz,” Dawid lays down a rolling bass line, augmented by sparse electric piano and gospel-like wordless vocals. Her warbling clarinet — sounding almost ghostly, like it was playing on an old 78 — dances around the central vamp. Words gradually emerge, sung by a multi-track chorus: “We are glowing stars/Shining brightly.” Clarinet and vocals alike become freer and more extroverted, and the track’s foreground and background begin to blur.
What’s remarkable about the track, beyond its gentle, meditative power, is that you can almost picture a small ensemble performing it in a room, drawing strength from the refrain’s statement of collective strength.
Dawid clearly shares an intense bond with her live group, the Brotherhood. And as she told Qwest, she has also studied the examples of various trailblazing Chicago-born musical collaboratives, citing both Sun Ra (leader of the famed, still-extant Arkestra) and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. But there’s something magical about hearing her conjure that same communal spirit all by herself.