Angel Bat Dawid is an enigma; her debut album 'The Oracle’ (released earlier this year on tape) is a total anomaly. Dawid recorded, overdubbed and mixed the album on her own after a brain tumor diagnosis disrupted her music studies, she plays every instrument you hear (except for some drums), appears on the cover and produced every flawless twist and turn you’ll find inside. 'The Oracle’ is basically a head-slapping, tear-jerking introduction to the spiritual jazz cosmos of an artist who has become one of Chicago’s most revered and ubiquitous players in recent years, beckoning classic comparisons with everyone from Sun Ra to Nina Simone, or Matana Roberts to Moor Mother in the modern day, but ultimately revealing her own path with shockingly natural ease.
From the opening bars of ‘The Oracle’ it quickly becomes apparent something special is about to happen, and that feeling burns until the end of the LP. Variously designated as “celestial psalms, spiritual jazz experiments & homemade hymns” on the obi strip, Angel is truly channelling something from above and beyond in her incredibly earthy but skyward style.
One gets the feeling that music comes as naturally as breathing to Angel. So it makes sense that she favours singing and playing the clarinet, but that’s only half of the story to ‘The Oracle.’ Apart from the sizzling drums on ‘Cape Town’, Angel remarkably plays all other instruments on the record, as well as overdubbing and mixing everything by herself, too (not to mention appearing on the front cover), which is a rare proposition in many musical fields, not to mention free jazz, which often favours recording engineers and post-production to “get it right.” Safe to say that Angel gets it more “right” than most thanks to her proximity and ease with the material, and the way she ultimately conveys her experience with an unbroken sense of urgency and concentration.
From the quizzical melodies and effected vocals that flow out of ‘Destination (Dr. Yusef Lateef)’ to the incredible catharsis felt at the close of ‘Cape Town’, and cemented in her subsequent closer ‘The Oracle’, the album leaves us ragged and with a lump-in-the-throat, with thanks to the rarely paralleled conviction and utter freeness of her playing and arrangement. Frankly, fans of everything from John and Alice Coltrane to Ornate Coleman, thru the South African styles of Ndikho Xhaba & The Natives and up to Matana Roberts are bound to be bowled over by the ancient but timeless emotive clout of Angel’s solo debut. Incredible.