Ciara Moser, Blind. So What? Review
More Than Meets the Ear: Ciara Moser’s Blind. So What?
by Ferell Aubre
To truly savor the depth and resonance of Ciara Moser’s inaugural oeuvre, Blind. So what?, one must traverse the labyrinthine corridors of her dual identities: as a virtuoso bassist and a visionary—yes, let’s use that term—born without sight. This recording is not merely a sonic exhibition of her instrumental prowess, which is, without question, scintillating. It is also a musical thesis, a call to cognizance regarding the world of those for whom darkness is not an absence but a different kind of illumination. Unveiled to the world on October 20, 2023, via her own independent label, this audacious compilation emerges as an electrifying fusion of modern jazz, fortified by penetrating lyrical profundities and kaleidoscopic instrumental tapestries.
Moser’s impressive educational background and mentorship under stalwarts like Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Victor Wooten, and others at the Berklee Global Jazz Institute set a foundation for the album’s ambitious reach. The theme of using music as a vehicle for social change is palpable, aligning her compositional focus tightly with issues concerning music and blindness.
Blind. So what? consists of twelve intricately designed tracks, each functioning as a narrative vignette that explores distinct challenges and experiences relevant to the blind community. The album opens on an inclusive note, as a screen reader articulates its title in 16 languages, serving as a prelude to the thematic depth that follows. In “I Trust,” Moser not only ponders the intricacies of trust but enriches the concept by filtering it through the lens of visual impairment. The track employs a funk-tinged groove not merely as a stylistic choice but as a sonic embodiment of its central theme. Moser’s bass technique exhibits a balanced blend of grounding and flourish: she anchors the groove while embellishing it with inventive fills. Her solo unfolds like an expertly told story, spotlighting her dexterity and artistic depth. Blind. So what? is sequenced in a way that guides the listener through an emotional journey, gradually unraveling its complex subjects while allowing for periods of reflection.
The track “Memory,” honored with a 2023 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award, delves deep into the essential art of memorization—an aspect of life critically crucial for the visually impaired. Seamlessly blending fusion jazz with elements of Indian Classical music, the piece begins with a captivating rhythmic structure: Ta-ti-ki-na-tum; Ta-taki-na-tum, and so on. This choice of rhythm not only serves as a complex, driving force behind the track and underscores the thematic focus on the discipline and rigor needed for memorization. Moser’s writing in the soli sections are melodic gems that highlight her extraordinary compositional talents. Guitarist Amaury Cabral’s solo is no less compelling, weaving through fusion and contemporary jazz textures with finesse. Vocalist Aditi Malhotra elevates the track further, executing the lyrics with a unique blend of technical mastery and emotive power. The intricate construction of “Memory” is a musical testament to the laborious yet rewarding mental exercises integral to the lives of blind individuals.
In “The Call to See Beyond,” Moser challenges listeners to reconsider their often superficial, appearance-based judgments, urging a more empathetic approach to human interaction. The track’s hip funky groove lays a foundation for harmonized vocals skillfully interwoven with riff-based melodies from the guitar and keyboards. Malhotra’s lead vocals excel in delivering the message, her voice serving as a rallying call for self-examination. During Moser’s solo, the band loosens the groove, providing ample space for her warm bass tones to articulate the song’s ethos. As she solos, her ideas organically evolve, mirroring the band’s steadily increasing dynamism.
The lyrics focus on transcending physical attributes and cultural markers like race and attire, aiming instead for a soul-deep understanding of each individual. Phrases like “Open your eyes, open your soul” and “This is the call, I send the call” act as compelling directives, imploring the listener to heed this crucial social message. Malhotra’s vocal delivery of lines like “We have to see, beyond it all” adds gravitas to this pressing call for collective social awareness. This track thus aligns its musical and lyrical components into a unified, impactful critique of our visually oriented-society.
A standout moment on the album is the two-part opus “Different Ability,” which navigates the complex emotional landscape of being treated differently due to one’s abilities. The first part is a musical exploration of the emotional toll, featuring a compelling, emotionally charged, and technically impeccable solo by Salim Charvet. In stark contrast, Part 2 offers a celebration of individuality and uniqueness. This section is enriched with authentic testimonials from individuals who are blind, as well as from those close to them, illuminating the challenges and rewards inherent to their experience.
Moser’s virtuosic basslines are the spinal cord of the album, establishing the groove and musical integrity across tracks. Her Fodera electric six-string bass is exploited to its fullest potential, covering a broad spectrum of tonal colors and textures. Drummer Lumanyano MZI, percussionists Juan Sebastian Sanchez and George Lernis, and a robust ensemble of Berklee alumni add complex layers to the overall sound.
The multicultural sonic landscape is even more vivid in “Humanity,” where vocalists from India and South Africa sing words like “hope,” “unity,” and “humanity” in their native languages. The song’s Latin flair and rhythmic dynamism make it a standout.
As the album closes with the free improvisation of “The Lady with a Green Cane,” one can’t help but reflect on the album’s monumental artistic and social reach. Moser presents a work that is lyrically insightful, musically sophisticated, and socially meaningful.
As the final strains of “The Lady with a Green Cane” fade, listeners are left to ponder the album’s far-reaching artistic and social implications. Blind. So what? transcends the traditional boundaries of an ‘album’ to manifest as a magnum opus of a manifesto. This ambitious project serves as a symphonic exegesis on the complex dichotomies of limitation and transcendent perception that shape the experiences of the blind community. Beyond its musical prowess, the album situates itself in more extensive dialogues about disability and the arts, challenging societal norms and offering a groundbreaking platform for underrepresented voices. It thus stands as a singular triumph not only in elevating music as a sublime art form but also in leveraging it as a societal fulcrum for transformative change. Blind. So what? becomes a sine qua non for jazz and fusion fans and anyone ardently invested in the intersection of musical artistry and social enlightenment.