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Camila Meza's 'This is Not America' makes npr's '11 jazz songs that spoke truth to power In 2019'

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Jazz musicians have always spoken their mind in the face of injustice: think of Louis Armstrong and Charles Mingus voicing two different, equally courageous responses to the fight over Little Rock school integration, or the searing power Billie Holiday brought to "Strange Fruit" (and the price she paid). Well, in case you haven't noticed, we're in the midst of some interesting times, and artists from across jazz and the wider improvised-music spectrum have responded in kind, with music that tackles multiple issues with a range of tactics. What unites the stylistically varied tracks below - all drawn from fine albums - is the sensation of punching up, with indignation or sadness. These musicians may ultimately be preaching to the choir, but their aim is high and true, and their motives sincere.

The original song was born of inspired collaboration between David Bowie and the Pat Metheny Group, for the 1985 spy drama The Falcon and the Snowman. Its biting subtext - indignant disbelief at the betrayal of our nation's values - has inspired some pointed cover versions, including two just this year. German pianist Julia Hülsmann offers a view from the outside, entrusting the raw emotion to tenor saxophonist Uli Kempendorff. Chilean singer-songwriter Camila Meza has lyrics to work with, and gives them all appropriate feeling. I saw her perform the song at the Newport Jazz Festival the day after the horrific mass shooting in El Paso, Tx., and her performance brought tears to many eyes - peaking during a cathartic, imploring guitar solo. --Nate Chinen

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