Lafayette Gilchrist

March 27, 2024

Morphius Records LGM 2023-1

Having proven himself as  atop-flight soloist and trio leader, Baltimore-based pianist Lafayette Gilchrist expands his reach still further with this spirited sextet session. Accompanied by his trio’s bassist Herman Burney and drummer Eric Kennedy, he adds the gutbucket tones  of Christian Hizon’s trombone; expressive honks from tenor saxophonist Brian Settles; and crackling accents from percussionist Kevin Pinder.

Already involved with linking Jazz improv to the Wahington-Baltimore-invented go-go beat, these expanded textures bring a Hard Bop variant into the mix. Imagine the Jazz Messengers mixed with Ray Bryant’s trio and a conga drummer. While the five tunes are given a Latin dance-like fillip from Pinder’s hand percussion and maraca shakes, the solid groove is more Jazz-Funk than Afro-Cuban. The pianist’s wide-open comping and shifting variables project the beat more than any conga drum pop.

Often, as on “Metropolitan Musings (Them Streets Again)”, slick pianism outlines the stop/start theme that’s further accented with cheerful slides and bites from the horns until darkened keyboard chords announce the finale. Gilchrist’s elaborations also touch on slick glissandi, pedal-point emoting and honky-tonk-like variables. This is most noticeable with a modern recasting on “In the Swirl” as the rhythmic stance builds up to a crescendo with the sax and trombone advancing andante with Gilchrist adding allegro excitement.

Kennedy often tightens the narratives with tough drum breaks and distinct cymbal crackles, while the double bass pulse adds perfect responses to front line riffing. Throughout, soulful tenor sax double tonguing and brass plunger tones maintain the excitement level with mid-point improvising since most tracks move logically from head statement and expressive patterning variations to a final theme recap.

While there’s no denying Gilchrist and company are undaunted in their performances, the album’s detours and extension invigorate the mainstream rather than heading off on novel paths.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Undaunted 2. Ride It Out 3. In the Swirl 4. Southern Belle 5. Metropolitan Musings (Them Streets Again)

Personnel: Christian Hizon (trombone); Brian Settles (tenor saxophone); Lafayette Gilchrist (piano); Herman Burney (bass); Eric Kennedy (drums) and Kevin Pinder (percussion)