MOVING MISTS / FRAGOS-BAKER-GASPARRE: I Hear a Rhapsody. GILLESPIE: Blues for All. Moving Mists. This I Dig of Grew.2 DaNaBar.3 RODGERS-HART: My Funny Valentine. COLTRANE: Giant Steps. KING-YOUG-VAN: Beautiful Love.1 MONK-HANIGHEN-COOTIE: ‘Round Midnight. KERN-HAMMERSTEIN: All the Things You Are / Luke Gillespie, pno; John Raymond, tpt/fl-hn; 2Pat Harbison, tpt; 2Wayne Wallace, 2Brennan Johns, tb; Walter Smith III, t-sax; Tom Walsh, 2a-sax/ 3s-sax; 2Dave Stryker, gtr; Jeremy Allen, 2Todd Coolman, bs; Steve Houghton, dm; 1Tierney Sutton, voc / Patois Records (no number)
I get a lot of jazz records for review that promise, or claim, to have innovative arrangements that nearly always fail to deliver on that promise.
This is one that does.
Anyone familiar with the old 1940s ballad tune I Hear a Rhapsody will scarcely recognize it in Gillespie’s very modern and imaginative arrangement. In fact, had I not seen the title, I probably wouldn’t have recognized it either. Taken at an uptempo, its melodic line all but unrecognizable until 4:10 into the piece, its harmonies completely changed, it comes across as a chromatic fantasy with a driving, repetitive bass line on the piano. The rhythm, too, constantly shifts from a sort of wild mambo beat to a normal jazz 4 and back again. And this is played only by the piano trio, with no horns in the mix. Phenomenal!
Gillespie’s original piece Blues for All features trumpet and saxophone playing its quirky serrated melody in 3, the rhythm loping nicely behind them. I was also impressed with John Raymond’s solo, a bit sparse and improvising on the melody as well as on the chords. Again outstanding. Walter Smith III’s tenor solo goes a bit more outside at times but is also very fine. Gillespie’s piano solo seems to combine elements of Monk and McCoy Tyner. At the end, the two horns play an interchange contrasting with each other as the pianist fills in around them.
Gillespie also rewrites My Funny Valentine, again with just the trio, so that sounds almost like a classical piece with a Latin feel to the rhythm. This time, however, the careful listener will catch the principal melody almost unchanged beneath the surface of ostinato chords and modal harmonies. Here, too, Jeremy Allen provides a very nice bass solo, but this is primarily Gillespie’s showcase.
John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, oddly enough, begins like a ballad with the pianist playing an extempore fantasy to open the proceedings. Again, you’d scarcely recognize the piece, at least not until the horns come roaring in to play the familiar melody with its unusual chord changes. Smith’s tenor solo, backed only by drums, is truly outstanding, and becomes even more complex once the bas and piano join them. Raymond, again on trumpet, picks his way through the minefield of Coltrane’s changes like a pro who knows how to zigzag around them without getting the least bit lost. As usual, Gillespie is outstanding, with Allen moving felicitously on bass behind him.
Next up is Monk’s ‘Round Midnight, recognizable from the beginning this time, played solo by Gillespie. It’s quite lovely but only marginally interesting. Moving Mists is an original in 3 featuring Raymond on flugelhorn, its fairly simple melody transformed and shifted around as the performance progresses. Beautiful Love, a Wayne King tune, is performed as a goopy love ballad with a softly-sung vocal by one Tierney Sutton. I could have lived without this one and in fact skipped ahead after the first minute and a half. Enough lovey-dovey crap.
This I Dig of Grew is an old-fashioned swinger, played with brio by Gillespie’s trio with a bevy of guest stars. I especially liked guitarist Dave Stryker’s solo, and alto saxist Tom Walsh also played very well, as did trumpeter Pat Harbison. With DaNaBar we’re back to ballad time (why? what is it with all these ballads on jazz records nowadays?) but at least this one is an original tune with some harmonic interest and is well arranged. Tom Walsh returns, this time on soprano sax, and his solo is a gem with the tempo changing behind him. Raymond is superb on flugelhorn once again, but the standout solo on this track belongs to Smith on tenor.
We wrap up this set with the old chestnut, All the Things You Are, played slowly by Gillespie solo. The principal interest here is in the moving bass line which, though single-note style, explores and expands the underlying harmonies of the piece in an interesting way.
By and large, this is an interesting album. Gillespie has a great ear and is a superb arranger. But the CD progresses too much in the direction of lounge lizard jazz, particularly towards the latter part of the disc, for my taste. For tracks 1-4 and 8, however, it is well worth hearing.
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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