The sound at the core of The Honorable Chief Ahamefule J. Oluo’s new self-titled punk-rock record is the trumpeter’s signature guttural growl. It’s the sonic equivalent of someone who’s been pushed from routine and forced to snarl, putting the whole world around him on notice.
But at the same time, the record is celebratory, sympathetic, even divine. Like so many great artists, The Honorable Chief, who also plays in Seattle’s neo-jazz band Industrial Revelation, contains multitudes.
The record, which features Bryant Moore on electric guitar and Teo Shantz on drums, begins with the tongue-in-cheek, “Ah Reckon,” a New Orleans-esque romp reminiscent of the classic blues ballad, “Summertime.” Oluo’s horn sings out the phrase, “And the livin’s easy,” blaring it, shouting it so loud that it’s turned on its head and soaked to the core with subversion.
Following this declaration is “Give Back My Shit (Then We Might Get Along),” an anthem condemning cultural appropriation. It’s one of the few songs in which Oluo lends his actual singing voice, crooning, “’cuz no matter what you do, it will never look good on you!” It’s a song that cuts to the heart. It inspires reflection.
The standout track on the record, though, at least for me, is “End of Courtesy.” This is the Sistine Chapel’s finger tips, the soul of Mozart, the visitation in a dream. The tone of The Honorable Chief’s trumpet here is crisp and clear, strong yet melancholy. It soars and dips and makes heaven seem tangible, the possibility of touching the face of Venus legitimate. It’s a song to be played each and every day until its upheaval has been internalized.
In fact, the entire eight-track record is a rebellion, as all great art must be. A rebellion against theft, against stagnation, against putting anyone in a box. And The Honorable Chief pulls it off masterfully.
To celebrate the record, there will be a release party on September 17 at the Vermillion Art Gallery in Capitol Hill at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5 (or $12 with purchase of the CD). It will be a “loud, sweaty live show,” says the artist, and one where audiences can see the magic behind the music, and maybe even offer their own snarls in unison with the melodies.