A Mythic Jazz Fable

DisArmageddon (OneIs)
Jak Son Renfro

By Tim Roberts

Almost ten years in the making - from the initial coining of the title to the final mix - DisArmageddon: A Jazz Pop Opera is a creative triumph for lyricist Jak Son Renfro. With music composed and arranged by Ron Hayden, Renfro's work is a tale of war, art, sorcery, death, life, creation, destruction, filled with enough religious and mythic imagery to make you scramble for the closest volume of Joseph Campbell.

Vocalist Renfro, formerly of Serpent Wisdom, is joined by three members of the Ron Hayden Group - Ron Hayden on guitar and synth, Tyrone Wheeler on bass and Ted "Give the Drummer Some" Richardson on drums - Peter Rhee on violin and harmonies, Rick Debow on flute, John Wright on various percussion pieces, and a guest appearance by guitarist Ben Andrews on the track "Misunderstanding." Hayden's group plays with their usual smooth, professionalism, while Rhee's violin and Debow's flute add a folky, almost Celtic sound to a few of the tracks.

DisArmageddon tells the sometimes bloody and violent story of King War, an ogre tyrant, to whom the people offer fearful reverence, and the Muse of Peace. It is divided into three cohesive parts, two introductory selections two summaries framing the central story of the ogre king. It is not a light, dismissable New Agey story of the battle between peace and war. There are no evocations of ancient wisdoms or calls to return to Nature. This is a celebration of art and its power to reform. And it is also a warning.

Among the notable tracks are the mellow "Field of Opposites," the first introductory track, "War Lust," where Richardson lays down a military march rhythm over which Hayden and Rhee play an Arabic melody line, and "Return," one of the summary tracks which features Renfro delivering, in a shrill, Walter-Winchell staccato, the story of the prophet Jonah and his message to the Ninevites.

The story of Jonah and the Ninevites may best summarize the overall message Renfro is putting forth in this ambitious work. A reluctant Jonah is called to deliver Jah's (or God, for the Western minds among you) message of doom to Ninevah, a wicked, sinful town. But the Ninevites turn from their wicked ways. Jah spares them, despite what Jonah had hoped would happen.

And throughout DisArmageddon, we are asked to consider that destruction is a choice. Not a prophecy. We can choose to change, create, unite.

We can dis Armgageddon.