Chicago-based clarinetist, composer, singer and spiritual jazz soothsayer Angel Bat Dawid announces a new live album with her band Tha Brothahood. The album, which Angel has appropriately titled “LIVE,” releases on all physical formats on February 14th 2021 on International Anthem.
LIVE was mostly recorded on November 1st, 2019, at Haus der Berliner Festspiele in Berlin, Germany, during the 2019 edition of JazzFest Berlin. For Angel and Tha Brothahood – which includes Deacon Otis Cooke (vocals, synth), Viktor Le Givens (vocals, auxiliary instruments), Xristian Espinoza (tenor sax, percussion), Norman W. Long (electronics, synths), Dr. Adam Zanolini (double bass, bass guitar, soprano sax, flute, percussion), Isaiah Collier (drums), and Asher Simiso Gamedze (drums) – it was the first stop of their first European tour.
Forty-eight hours before the show, Angel and members of the band were on their way to the airport in Chicago when they received news that Viktor Le Gives had passed out on the street and subsequently woke up in a hospital with all his personal belongings missing. When they arrived in Berlin, the band’s manager Najee-Zaid Searcy reached out to the production staff of JazzFest Berlin to inform them of the situation. Their initial reply: “if you cannot find a substitute, we will have to reduce your fee.”
Of the cold, insensitive response to Viktor’s unfortunate situation, Angel recalls: “It really put a whole damper on my spirit to have to deal with this a few hours before performing. How the fuck is this response ever acceptable anywhere?!”
Angel shares: “I have issues in general about the way artists are treated because I see a difference in how tech folks treat women and artist of color… I’m calling it out. A lot of the racism and things I’m talking about are steeped in microaggressions and are so subtle and can go unnoticed. But all those things happen a lot and it was very evident at the festival… Yes I am hyper sensitive to any infraction I ever see, feel or observe when it comes to racism, and I no longer pass it off as an over sensitivity but an opportunity to blow the whistle on intellectual and structural racism that is still a rampant and ugly beast, especially in the European music world.”
Angel and her band had a handful of experiences over their two days in Berlin that contributed to her feelings, including an interaction at The Ellington Hotel (a place that’s named & themed in homage to the famous Black American composer), where the band was staying. The moment was recorded by Angel’s bandmate and she chose to include an excerpt at the beginning of the album’s first track, where she shouts repeatedly: “ever since I’ve been here y’all have treated me like shit!”
The full story, from Angel: “The morning at the Duke Ellington Hotel was the result of a buildup of things… The insensitive way the festival dealt with Viktor… to mean stares walking down the street with my Brothers… A man came up to all of us and said he was frightened by our group. I went to another shop and they told me ‘don’t go to East Berlin because they don’t like Blacks’… Berlin was leaving me feeling very isolated and angry. So the morning we were leaving this hotel, with its homage to Black musicians in every room… They had a piano in their bar area and I decided to play a tune, sing and praise, to leave on a good note. Deacon Otis was filming it as our way of just walking in love, no matter what. As I was singing someone on the staff runs up to me red face and angry saying ‘ma’am please don’t do this in the lobby this is not allowed!’ And I just went the fux off. I had had enough of the reprimands… I just couldn’t be my genuine Black self anywhere in Berlin without someone reprimanding me…”
Another sound that Angel chose to include in the album is an excerpt from a JazzFest Berlin panel discussion she participated in, which was moderated by writer Emma Warren – a friend of Angel’s – and recorded by Searcy. Angel’s powerful declamations from the panel stage are heard on the album’s last track “HELL,” through a dense layering of effects. “The discussion was led by Emma… so I was feeling very much myself and was going to tell the honest truth about how these festivals and music scenes still operate and support intellectual and structural racism, because they are never challenged,” Angel recalls.
Despite, or perhaps in light of the difficulties Angel and her band faced, they performed a set at Berliner Festspiele that Angel considers to be one of their best ever.