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Friday, August 02, 2019

CD Review: Luke Gillespie - Moving Mists

(Review by Dave Brownlow)

Luke Gillespie, a master pianist in both jazz and classical music, a Professor of Jazz Piano at Indiana University (Jacob School of Music), an international performer and an inspiring teacher in situ and on YouTube, very cleverly applies classical textures to jazz pieces - in other words he re-harmonises and re-constructs or re-invents jazz standards in a most inventive and thrilling way.

Among others, Gillespie’s voicings have echoes of Frederic Chopin, McCoy Tyner, Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor, whilst his harmonic choices are unusual and yet sound so ‘right’ in a jazz context.

The group comprises colleagues (past or present) who’re all thoroughly “at home” with his musical philosophy and provide great support in different combinations throughout the album. There are also two solo piano tracks.   Some of his work is a little reminiscent of a legendary figure from the past - Dick Twardzik - whose flame flickered briefly in the early ‘50s and who also chose a different musical path. (His muse was Bartok).  He caught the ear of Bird when he visited Boston who chose him for the piano chair in his quintet for some gigs.

 I Hear a Rhapsody: an ‘abrasive’ trio opener with a challenging ostinato bass line and compelling chordal choices together with unusual playing from the leader.

Blues For All: a lively play on Miles’ All Blues where an angular theme leads to charismatic solos from Raymond, Smith and Gillespie himself. Stalwart work from bassist Allen and drummer Houghton keeps us on track in the chord sequence while the soloists are up, out and away!

In the trio version of My Funny Valentine, Luke utilises the Brazilian ‘choro’ rhythmic style in a highly different arrangement utilising pedal points in the bass to create simply gorgeous harmonies and where the popular melody is treated with the greatest respect.

Coltrane’s Giant Steps has been a ‘test-piece’ for many aspiring would-be jazzers since it was written. Smith, Raymond and the leader are again featured in this no-holds-barred examination of the famous song. I would say all involved “pass with credit”!

Monk’s classic ‘Round Midnight sounds like a previously unknown Chopin Nocturne with the haunting melody re-harmonized in an out-of-this-world, ethereal version. Dizzy Gillespie’s often-used intro is cleverly interpolated into the solo. Simply wonderful….

The leader’s original piece Moving Mists uses the quartet set-up featuring Raymond on flugel, suggesting a Japanese influence - Luke grew up in Osaka - and has a thoughtful reflective ambience all through. 

Beautiful Love, sung by Tierney Sutton (a colleague at I.U.at the time), shows off another of Luke’s talents - that of accompanist. The haunting beauty of this track is spell-binding with the stark delivery of the song’s words enhanced by the pianist’s masterful keyboard support. Again, re-harmonization is at the core of the performance - different but so ‘right’….!

This I Dig of Grew is a Gillespie original for the septet, dedicated to pianist Mulgrew Miller, arranged by Brent Wallarab with a nod towards Hank Mobley’s This I Dig Of You. A  distinct “Blue Note” sound, more conventional in approach with fine, swinging solos from Stryker, Walsh, Harbison, Wallace and Coolman.

A second Wallarab arrangement is another Gillespie original DaNaBar which was written in 1984 for jazz educator David Baker’s composition class. Lovely solos from Walsh, Raymond, Smith and Gillespie show the respect Baker is held in by the group.
Finally, All the Things You Are beautifully, strangely re-harmonized and played solo by Gillespie, leaves the listener hanging in mid-air, wanting more …

This is such an interesting CD which is well-programmed with good contrasts from track-to-track. It has challenging, imaginative music brilliantly played by a first-class ensemble and is full of surprises.
This is my album of the month (July)
– a 5-star rating from me
Available now on PATOIS RECORDS - Patois PRCD025
Dave B.

Luke Gillespie (piano) + (Collective personnel): Jeremy Allen, Todd Coolman (bass); Steve Houghton (drums); John Raymond (trumpet/flugel); Walter Smith III (tenor sax); Tierney Sutton (vocal track 7); Tom Walsh (alto/sop saxes); Pat Harbison (trumpet), Wayne Wallace, Brennan Johns (trombone); Brent Wallarab (arr tracks 8 & 9).

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