Lafayette Gilchrist Plays with Dark Matter

Gilchrist_Dark_Matter_Cover

WP 2019 - 2DARK MATTER / GILCHRIST: For the Go-Go. Child’s Play. Dark Matter, The Love Bind. Spontaneous Combustion. And You Know This. Blues for Our Marches to End. Old Whale Bones. Happy Birthday Sucker. Black Flight. Greetings / Lafayette Gilchrist, pno / Lafayette Music CDS 005

Lafayette Gilchrist, longtime pianist for saxophone legend David Murray (whose music I generally like very much), has an outing here in what is his second solo CD. I immediately liked the opener, For the Go-Go, which sounds like a cross between boogie woogie and Professor Longhair’s “rolling” New Orleans beat. Gilchrist adds his own touches, however, including unusual stresses on the third beat of each measure by hitting that chord with extra volume. He develops the simple theme slowly and gradually, adding something a little different to each chorus as it goes along.

Child’s Play is a slow number with slight blues allusions in it as well as a running, single-note bass line that becomes more complex as the piece progresses. Judging from these first two tracks (I hadn’t heard him before), Gilchrist seems to be a pianist with a limited technique but a very fertile imagination who can take the simplest building blocks and create a beautiful structure out of them. The title track, Dark Matter, is a rollicking piece in medium tempo with a sort of minor-key blues feel to it. Once again Gilchrist makes something interesting out of very little, piecing little rhythmic blues licks together to form a composition.

The Love Bind begins as a ballad, but by the 35-second mark, Gilchrist is pounding the bass in a funky kind of groove. Spontaneous Combustion also begins in a ballad mode, which surprised me considering its title, but it, too, soon moves into more rhythmic territory, with Gilchrist improvising simple but effective bluesy lines and chords above a pounding, repeated low bass pattern. Towards the end, Gilchrist suddenly downshifts the tempo to play a more lyrical chorus before returning to the pounding rhythm of the opening.

And You Know This follows a similar pattern: the slow, out-of-tempo introduction, followed by a hard-driving, bluesy tune which is developed. In this case, however, the principal theme is rather funkier than its predecessors. Blues for Our Marches to End consists of a simple but catchy rolling bass riff over which Gilchrist plays a different but equally catchy chord sequence. At the five-minute mark he again shifts gears to a Professor Longhair boogie-shuffle, but just temporarily before moving into more complex improvisation, then back to the rolling bass line for the ride-out.

Old Whale Bones is one of the most interesting pieces on the album, one in which Gilchrist plays single notes in both hands against one another contrapuntally, creating interesting figures as he goes along. Yes, he does toss a few chords in, but the unusual single-note style of the bass line continues for the most part and creates an interesting tension with the right hand.

I got a laugh out of the title of Happy Birthday Sucker, which starts out with a very brief snippet of the “Happy Birthday” song but then goes into blues territory before turning into a blues, then into a hard-driving funk piece, albeit with moments of relaxation here and there. By contrast, Black Flight is more lyrical, almost lovely, its simple but effective melody developed well, while ironically, the closer is titled Greeting, This is another simple tune made complex by Gilchrist’s use of various devices in the bass line against the loping right-hand figures. This is also the most harmonically interesting piece on the album, using out-of-tonality chords and chord positions as the piece progresses. At around 2:54, he indulges in some nifty cross-rhythmic patterns across both hands, then slightly increases the tempo for some contrapuntal development. A bit of stride piano makes its appearance at 5:38, followed by some Monk-ish figures.

Dark Matter is an album in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A strange but rewarding listening experience!

—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley

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