Lafayette Gilchrist / Eric Kennedy / Herman Burney

April 18, 2021


Lafayette Gilchrist Music No #

Retro in the right way, this triumphant two-CD set by Lafayette Gilchrist is a welcome throwback to the trio sessions of two-handed pianists like Red Garland and Ray Bryant who fearlessly exhibited Blues roots alongside more refined piano styling. Additionally Baltimore-based Gilchrist, who has worked with David Murray, is ably assisted by drummer Eric Kennedy and bassist Herman Burney who have been a melded rhythm team for years – and it shows.

Over 16 tracks, the propulsive power displayed in Gilchrist’s extended patterning, loops of unexpected keyboard exploration and propelled tension-release keeps the tempos moving between andante and allegro with busy asides shoveling masses of notes within almost every exposition. At the same time as the groove solidifies as piano motifs move forward, the bassist and drummer sympathetically add asides and color when needed. “Rare Essence” for instance moves from keyboard rattles and rebounds to a reflective narrative, as Burney fluidly sluices up and down his strings and Kennedy pops ratamacues and ruffs. Furthermore the pianist is saved from overt polite playing on a track such as “Tomorrow Is Waiting Now (Sharon’s Song)” when cymbal swishes and cowbell slaps as well as urgent strums from the bassist evolve in counterpoint to the piano melody, building tension before satisfactory release.

Meantime as Gilchrist prods the narratives to logical extremes during some tracks he reaches still further back in his emulation. He’s light-fingered on a tune like “Old Shoes Come to Life”, but his cascading stomps and purposeful accents suggest Boogie Woogie ticklers of the 1920s and 1930s. Going even deeper into tradition, as the title advertises, “The Midnight Step Rag” is a modern recasting of pre-World war I ragtime – note perfect in rendition but with enough slides and stops to end with a joyful release.

Supercharged Blues, boogie and swing aren’t the only expression here though. Tunes such as “The Wonder of Being Here” and “Purple Blues” – which isn’t a Blues at all – are balladic in nature. The first makes gentling key jiggles into a logical structure, while the other’s unfolding variations advance from curves, clinks and clatters to swaying piano patterning.

Whether Gilchrist and company are a throwback or post-modern adaptors of earlier styles isn’t the point. The point is that Now is as essential instance of profound piano Jazz being created by anyone in 2021.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: CD1: 1. Assume the Position 2. Bamboozled 3. Rare Essence 4. Old Shoes Come to Life 5. On Your Belly like a Snake 6. Say a Prayer for Our Love 7. Bmore Careful 8. The Midnight Step Rag CD2: 1. Tomorrow Is Waiting Now (Sharon’s Song) 2. The Wonder of Being Here 3. Purple Blues 4. Newly Arrived 5. Enough 6. Get Straight to the Point 7. Can You Speak My Language 8. Specials Revealed.

Personnel: Lafayette Gilchrist (piano); Herman Burney (bass) and Eric Kennedy (drums)