Richard Bliwas: Ghost (2005)
Composer/pianist/singer Richard Bliwas sets out on his most ambitious recording yet with Ghost. Bliwas offers listeners an intoxicating mix of free jazz, funk, Latin, pop and straight-ahead jazz. His writing, unmistakably original, shares similarities with that of Patricia Barber, Miles Davis, and The Beatles. The recording opens with an original, "Olivia," featuring intimate writing and lyrics with depth. Bliwas' sensitive singing and his strong piano playing set a contrast in mood. However, this atmosphere seems intentionally obscured by the abstract interjections of saxophonist Charles Ned Goold.
"Winter Song" is another of Bliwas' compositions that instantly grabs the listener's attention. After the exploratory nature of the previous tracks, this piece opens with a Broadway-esque piano introduction. Goold adds an interesting dimension to this composition. His ideas start as bluesy motifs weaving in and out of Bliwas' phrases, then slowly move towards some more complex bebop-ish ideas to some nice interplay of ideas with the piano.
Whether you enjoy this music or not, you have to appreciate the uncanny blending of styles that Bliwas achieves. The essence of Miles Davis' In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew has definitely left its mark on this composer, who adds his own insightful lyrics to the whirlwind of sounds. On the other hand, a composition like "Yellow Crayon" shows Bliwas' humorous side, as well as The Beatles' influence. The eleventh track on this album, wittingly called "Reality," is an explorative groove of sorts without vocals, serving as a showcase for Goold's intuitive and punctuated playing. The following track, "Fantasy," enters sounding like an outdated video game and quickly blossoms into some truly inspired music.
Two songs that seem oddly out of place yet still fit within the general framework of the album are "The Nearness of You" and "Mean to Me." The former exhibits what happens when a composer of Bliwas' caliber goes about reharmonizing a standard. The result is anything but mundane. The latter offers testament to this artist's versatility and acknowledgement of tradition. Bliwas approaches this tune with his most straight-ahead work of the whole album, while Goold's angular improvisations dress up this well known standard.
Last but not least is a piece entitled "Haunted Rag," an alluring and intricate piano excursion bordered by some organ music that sounds like it is emanating from a haunted carnival. And if you have any question in your mind as to whether Richard Bliwas has a great sense of humor, be sure not to turn the stereo off or take the disc out until you have heard the last track in its entirety.
Ghost exhibits some modern compositional techniques while drawing from various genres of popular music. Richard Bliwas' fearless mixing of genres, coupled with his perceptive lyrics, will offer his audience something new with each spin.
Track Listing: Olivia Dragon; Tin Dream; Winter Song; Saturn; Time Travel; Yellow Crayon; Red Thought; September Blues; Interlude; Reality; Fantasy; Nearness of You; Rubberjam; Mean to Me; Haunted Rag
Personnel: Richard Bliwas (Piano, Vox Organ, Vocals); Charles Ned Goold (Alto Saxophone); Ben Sher (Guitar); Valtinho Anastacio (Percussion)
Record Label: Rising Rose
Style: Beyond Jazz