"Towards the Shining Path"


What we have here is a page-turner of sorts, music to go along with some vintage pulp fiction or a new graphic novel.

Mind you, that's not the aim of Baltimore-based pianist Lafayette Gilchrist, who grew up listening to go-go bands in Washington and is no stranger to hip-hop and funk. He has since fallen under the sway of Ellington, Mingus and Monk, and found a mentor in saxophonist David Murray. All these influences are apparent on Gilchrist's second CD. Yet when "Towards the Shining Path" turns dark, when Gilchrist is hammering out jagged chords or a cluster of horns begins to snarl over a stalking beat, don't be surprised if you suddenly find yourself in the mood for some Raymond Chandler or Frank Miller.

"Towards the Shining Path" differs in some respects from its widely acclaimed predecessor, 2004's "The Music According to Lafayette Gilchrist." Gilchrist plays more piano, for one thing; the arrangements, featuring his New Volcanoes septet, are more thoroughly developed, for another. But the music's fundamental strengths -- its curious themes and mounting rhythms -- are familiar. There's not a performance here that doesn't pull at you, whether it's the opener "New Jack," with its vibrant syncopations; "Elephant Dance," with its thoroughly evocative rhythmic footprints; or "The Juggler's Dream," with its color and audacity. Even "Unsolved, Unresolved," a comparatively lean trio performance, exerts a classic soul-jazz tug.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Friday at the Smithsonian Jazz Cafe.