Georgia Anne Muldrow's New Jyoti LP 'Mama, You Can Bet!' Is a Revelation

Photo: Priscilla Jimenez

Jyoti's Mama, You Can Bet! is a revelation -- of time, of rhythm, of sound. It takes the free-ranging jazz sensibilities of Georgia Anne Muldrow's previous outings under the Jyoti moniker and gives them a next-level boost.

Mama, You Can Bet!


28 August 2020

Jyoti's (aka Georgia Anne Muldrow) Mama, You Can Bet! is a revelation -- of time, of rhythm, of sound. It takes the free-ranging jazz sensibilities of her previous outings under the Jyoti moniker (follows 2013's Denderah and 2010's Ocotea) and gives them a next-level boost. The legendary Alice Coltrane gave her this nickname, and Muldrow certainly puts all of her musical wisdom and power behind it.

This time, she adds depth through what is perhaps her best instrument, her voice. This acts as a contrast to what we've been fortunate and accustomed to hearing from her in the realm of R&B, hip-hop, and spacey funk. Is there a "post-funk" label we could apply here? If so, maybe we should.

The logical and natural entryway into this album is the title track, the opener. It moseys along, with its thumping bass, proving that inspiration need not arrive in a flash. "Mama," sings Muldrow, "love is waiting for you…I know love is waiting around the corner." Content-wise, the song is meant as a homage to Muldrow's mother. Figuratively, it speaks to any mother, as a wellness check of sorts for mothers who normally guide us to sources of love instead of the other way around. There's also a universal vibe, as in a tribute to our inborn intelligence (mother wit), expression through language (mother tongue), grounded in a wellspring of support (motherlode), all with cosmic alignment (mother nature).

But, artistically, the real soul of this album, and the key to its conceptual underpinnings, rests with Muldrow's nimble retooling of two Charles Mingus compositions. Take the seductive wail and brassy sway of Mingus's "Bemoanable Lady" and then listen to Muldrow's "gee mix" in which she snips it, chops it, and flips it, adding crisp percussion along with a haunting and swirling shriek. Pianist Jason Moran, of Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center, recruited Muldrow for a live set dubbed "Muldrow Meets Mingus". Well, this is Mingus meets Funkadelic. Transformed into loops, "The Revolution" has been digitized, undulating, and cyclical, so that "now" is intertwined with "then". The result asks us to reconfigure our conceptions of "time".

And what about the Kennedy Center's "Muldrow Meets Mingus" concept? With its coverage of famed Mingus pieces like "Fables of Faubus" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", it's a lesson in creating transformative art as Muldrow interprets jazz through current technology. Then she reverses course to reinterpret her work for a live performance. It's this interplay that's presented on Mama, You Can Bet! in the other Mingus-inspired "gee mix", "Fabus Foo". Here, the multi-instrumentalist juxtaposes the up-tempo horn of the original and embeds it within the bassline, a sort of aural origami not unlike what we found in producer J Dilla's 2006 swansong Donuts or just about anything from frequent Muldrow collaborators Madlib and Flying Lotus.

Once the album's soul touches you, it's an inescapable listening experience, from "This Walk" and its inevitable but artistically earned channeling of Nina Simone, to the buildup of "joyful noise" found in "RA's Noise (Thukumbado)" and Muldrow's layering of rhythm, guitar riffs, and chants.

The fusion of "Joy" and "noise" is a running theme that you find most clearly in the tracks with musical or dance references in the titles. First, there are the "bop" songs. "Bop for Aneho" lands softly, over quilted beats, yet frenetic and energized in contrast to the subdued singing. "Hard Bap Duke" offers a squishy bassline and provides a seminar in creating organization out of chaos. So dissonant and so segmented, you nevertheless feel the song's elements sliding together as the song shifts along in a sonic collage. You'll then find the dancing tracks, as in the atonal piano of album closer "The Cowrie Waltz" and "Swing Kirikou Swing". Both songs sound like variations of an ice cream truck jingle in need of repair. Yet, it somehow works.

Most importantly, though, this album presents the notion that the concept of time -- that immutable and inexorable friend and enemy to us all -- can be influenced, if not managed, by rhythm and speed. Muldrow accomplishes this with movements in a rambunctious triple time or with piano stabs delivered slightly behind the beat. She deftly connects these disparate elements, and then she allows them to become unglued and unstuck from compositions that always threaten to become unhinged.

There's so much to like here, as a current document that faces forward while reflecting the past. My main nitpick would be the echo and trailing effects on the vocals, making the words linger with an extended dissolve. It's especially noticeable on headphones and makes for an odd choice on an album that otherwise sounds gorgeous. Still, even this perceived flaw alludes to an ethereal quality, a sense of permanence that certainly belongs to an album that brings Mingus to mind or even tangentially reminds us of Nina Simone. It makes a complete circle, and I recommend listening to it in reverse track order and the original lineup, even in our playlist-driven listening world.

It is, as I said in the beginning, a revelation.






Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.


3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".


'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.