"The Music According to Lafayette Gilchrist"
When Lafayette Gilchrist leaves the deepest impressions on his new CD, he doesn't sound like a pianist fronting a band. He sounds like a gifted arranger working in an intimate setting, a small combo catalyst indulging his taste for rhythms that strut, swagger and slide, horn charts that swell and clash, orchestrations that variously evoke the legacies of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver, Andrew Hill and other, more contemporary influences. Among the last is saxophonist David Murray, with whom Gilchrist has closely worked.
The Baltimore-based Gilchrist tends to structure his tunes from the bottom up, relying heavily on bass, drums and his percussive piano to create the juggernaut-like momentum that builds on the album's opening tracks, "Assume the Position" and "Baltimore's Belly." His hands frequently gravitate toward gospel chords and soul jazz grooves on the album (co-produced by Living Colour's Vernon Reid), but as the taunting horns and percolating electric bass lines on "Belly" demonstrate, Gilchrist is no slave to tradition. Nothing so readily reveals his knack for skillfully teetering between the ominous and the whimsical than "The Syndicate," a brassy stomp punctuated by dissonant keyboard jabs, though the growling arrangement of "The Return of Jes Crew" comes awfully close.
A rhythm section-only interlude surfaces with the arrival of the ballad "For Vince Loving," creating an alluring change of pace. But Gilchrist is in prime form when saxophonist John Dierker and trumpeters Mike Cerri and Freddy Dunn come along for a series of invigorating, genre-blurring rides.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Friday at Bohemian Caverns. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Lafayette Gilchrist, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8105. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)