June 22, 2020. Inspired by the protest music of the ’60s that helped dismantle the codified racism of that era, bassist Marlene Rosenberg’s latest album, MLK Convergence, released almost exactly a year ago, presents a new catalogue of socially conscious compositions with the exigency of our current moment in mind, taking aim at the vestiges of institutionalized prejudice that continue to link America to its original sin.
There are seven original compositions by Rosenberg, two arrangements of Stevie Wonder tunes, and one take on a composition by Philadelphia native and legendary jazz pianist Kenny Barron.
Barron constitutes one-third of the core group, joining Rosenberg and the great Lewis Nash on drums. Nash played for years with bassist Ron Carter, one of Rosenberg’s most influential mentors; the three have traveled in similar musicians’ circles and known each other for years but had never before had the chance the cut an album together.
That’s what’s meant primarily by the album’s title, MLK Convergence—it’s Marlene, Lewis, and Kenny all recording together for the first time. M, L, and K. Though whenever those letters appear in that sequence, you know the conversation is in no small part about Rev. King and the ideas he fought and died for.
The first cut, “American Violet,” takes its title from the 2008 film of the same name that tells the story of 15 black residents of Hearne, Texas who were wrongly indicted as drug