AFTER|LIFE - Live 2019

The Better Angels of Our Nature

"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

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.


Bill Mobley - trumpet/flugelhorn / Cameron MacManus - trombone / Brian McCarthy - Alto/Soprano Sax / Daniel Ian Smith - Tenor/Soprano Sax / Stantawn Kendrick - Tenor Sax / Andrew Gutaskas - Baritone Sax / Justin Kauflin - Piano / Matt Aronoff - Bass / Zach Harmon - Drums

Sample Video

In the Press