To Nicholas Krolak, jazz isn’t just music to put on in the background during a dinner party, or to be listened to casually at a low-key dive bar. It’s a vehicle for empowering, uplifting social justice. Voice = Power, the Philly jazz bassist’s latest record, examines this concept thoroughly. The album seamlessly combines a variety of jazz stylings, experimental harmonies, and ambient music. Voice = Power is a reminder that we should constantly look forward, and change what we can, while also preserving the beauty of the past.

Early in Krolak’s career, he initially regretted pursuing music. “With the amount of time I spent training in music, I could have become a lawyer and been fighting alongside the ACLU or a scientist dedicating my life to finding sustainable solutions to climate-change,” he recalled in a recent press release. Eventually, he realized that music is inherently empowering and outwardly expressive; an art form that transcends the very thing it is limited by: time. Jazz, arguably the only truly American music genre, has a deep, rich history to tap into, and a bright future to hope for. For Krolak, it’s the perfect genre to use to uplift listeners.

Voice = Power‘s standout tracks, “Speaking Back Through Time,” “A Mannequin’s Hands,” and “This Is Our Moment,” are additionally the only tracks to feature vocals. Across these three tracks, V. Shayne Frederick delivers spoken word poems and songs written by Krolak, centering around an examination of the intersection between nature, justice, and music.

These tracks also tend to lean more experimental, instrumentally. “Speaking Back Through Time,” features a swell of ambient, discordant sax and trumpet harmonies, “A Mannequin’s Hand,” uses filters to delay and distort the ascending piano motif which propels the song, and “This Is Our Moment” solely features Tim Brey’s brilliant piano work set against Frederick’s vocals.

Frederick closes out “This Is Our Moment”–and the album–by singing “Phase shift, moon glow, revolt and restore / As if to say ‘This is our moment.'” Here, Krolak and Frederick link the shifting moon with progressive human nature and evolving artforms. This is music’s transcendent power to connect and inspire on full display, a reminder that artistic expression can encourage social movements, a reminder that voice equals power.

The other tracks are equally brilliant, even virtuosic at points. Krolak’s bass playing, especially on “Crucian Lullaby” and “Interlude 3,” is phenomenal. The more bebop-inspired tracks, like “Interlude 1,” “Interlude 2,” and “3” feature inspired performances and blazing solos from Jon Katz, Elliot Bild, Tim Brey, and Gusten Rudolph on alto sax, trumpet, piano, and drums respectively.\

“Stargazer,” one of the record’s sonic outliers, is a somber, meditative, experiment with the textural aspects of live jazz music. Rudolph’s brush work provides the soundscape with a deeply intimate quality, while Katz and Brey trade solos on alto sax and piano, exploring their respective instruments’ full ranges and sonic capabilities. About four minutes into the track, the two musicians lead the band into a euphoric modulation, before the track diminishes in intensity, like a blazing star slowly fades from the dawn sky.

Voice = Power was recorded live at Rittenhouse Sound Works. It was released May 22nd through NextLevel, an imprint of Outside in Music. Download Nicholas Krolak’s Voice = Power here and listen to a stream of the record below.