Breathe Suite by Ben Marc album review by Greg Walker for Northern Transmissions

Innovative Leisure


Ben Marc

Breathe Suite

London Jazz musician, Ben Marc started his EP Breathe Suite, during the lock down and as news of George Floyd spread across the world. The EP is four tracks, all variations on a singular theme. With amazing, classical, jazz, and hip hop arrangements over live drums and including a choir of children and supporting artists MidnightRoba and Shabaka Hutchings and Rarelyalways, it is has layers upon layers. Like the George Floyd killing, which effected all sorts of different people, from children to adults, from colored people to whites, rich to poor, Marc’s tracks are grand sweeping.

The children choir, made up of untrained children chanting a mantra fit for a protest march, is repeated on the main tracks, “Suite A” and “Suite B,” but also on the Improvs “A” and “B.” “I’ll raise my voice / You raised your hand / I’ll hold the truth / Until you understand.” Like the climate champion Greta Thunberg, it is a sign of the younger generation’s ability to face disaster and injustice with fortitude, hope, and an iron jaw memory. Like every generation, there is a news’ story that defines that generation, (JFK’s death, the Challenger explosion, 9/11) and the George Floyd story will surely be the youngest generation’s.

The first track, is the more subdued of the tracks. MidnightRoba, which for me recalls the emotive activist/singer ANOHNI, fills out most of the song with her deep, emotional croon. The piano travels up and down the keys and the strings emote like a voice. It is a melancholy, evocative track that MidnightRoba wisely suggested to Marc be longer in length. It is like a movie soundtrack. Imagine images of police brutality and people marching in droves with signs in the street. In solidarity with black lives, and compassion for the dying, the word “breathe” is repeated towards the end of the song.

The third track, “Breathe Suite B,” is a bit more tense than the “Suite A,” as if the first track was the realization of injustice and the second is the fight back. Words flow. “Stop playing checkers / No time for temper temper / diamonds are built under pressure / late night double decker / counting my blessing better.” Chants continue in the background of the song. With the looser Improv tracks, which seem to typify the practicing of raising your voice, the time in between conflicts, where we rehearse what we’re going to say and feel about certain topics, it is a full offering, that drives home the point: we are not going to forget what happened, but we’re not going to let it send us into a panic.

Music as activism is a fascinating art form. Because it both reflects our experiences in form and color and mood, and projects our hopes or expectations, in triumphant and deep-feeling solidarity between creator and listener. With his talent as a composer and a musician, Ben Marc has a platform and he’s using it to speak into one of the most vital conversations happening right now. This EP is historical.

Order Breathe Suite by Ben Marc HERE

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