The Better Angels of Our Nature
2017 Critically Acclaimed album
2017 Critically Acclaimed album
Looking back on the most divisive moment in American history (no matter how much the current day seems ready to claim that title), saxophonist Brian McCarthy finds the roots of jazz in Civil War-era songs and spirit. On his new album, The Better Angels Of Our Nature, McCarthy pairs insightful new arrangements of vintage wartime folk songs with vibrant new compositions for his skilled Nonet to explore the clashing inspirations and enduring influence of the war that turned brother against brother in a battle over the soul of America.
Out now on Truth Revolution Recording Collective, The Better Angels Of Our Nature takes its title from the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address. The speech, addressed in large part to the citizens of the Southern states, was offered in a spirit of reconciliation and hope for reunification with the seceded Confederacy. McCarthy’s music locates the better angels at the heart of music representing the North, the South, and the African-American slaves who weren’t considered full citizens but whose fate hung in the balance of the brutal conflict.
A self-professed Civil War history buff, McCarthy found the era an ideal subject for the large-scale project that grew out of a Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant. The war has long served as the starting point for the Jazz History class that McCarthy teaches at Johnson State College, as “a time before jazz existed, but a time that was crucial to its existence.” As he explains, “Jazz came from the African-American experience here in America. Out of the darkness of terrible slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow came this really beautiful art form.
"The Better Angels of Our Nature is both timeless (as is all great music) and could not be more timely. Brian McCarthy has assembled an ensemble of brilliant players and given them music of deep roots and resonant meaning, a program rich in our history with lessons for the present moment that we should all take to heart."
— Bob Blumenthal, author and journalist
4 1/2 Stars, "...cavernous impression for its arresting beauty and conceptual brilliance."
— Brian Zimmerman, DownBeat (September 2017, p78)
“A fascinating big band work by a talented young arranger/composer...”
–Ralph Miriello, Huffington Post
4 Stars, “A valuable collection on multiple levels.”
— Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz
"...continually surprising and quite brilliant..."
— Jeff Simon, Buffalo News
5.23.2023 Moosik Blog
5.1.2018 DownBeat Magazine, “Finding The Better Angels of Our Nature”
12.6.2017 Huffington Post - "Best of 2017"
12.1.2017 DownBeat Magazine - "Best of 2017"
9.1.2017 DownBeat Magazine - 4 1/2 Star Review
8.17.2017 Time Argus Review
8.17.2017 Time Argus Feature
8.16.2017 Seven Days Feature
7.24.2017 Green Mountain Jazz, All About Jazz Review
7.20.2017 All About Jazz Review
7.6.2017 Vermont Public Radio, Listening Party w/ Reuben Jackson
7.1.2017 Step Tempest, Blog Review
6.22.2017 The Buffalo News, Review
6.15.2017 Republic of Jazz, Blog Review
6.7.2017 Impediments of War, Radio Interview
6.2.2017 Black Grooves, Blog Review
3.8.2016 NCPR Interview - The Bridge with Joel Hurd
3.12.2016 Saxophone Times - Interview
11.5.2015 Burlington Free Press, Feature
11.6.2016 Vermont Public Radio, Live Performance
11.3.2015 Vermont Arts Council, Blog Preview