P>Jazz, like most kinds of music, is a migratory art form. Regional enclaves abound and players are continually traveling and relocating between them trading ideas and innovations. It’s this continuous cross-pollination that is one of the primary ways the music continues to develop and sustain itself. Still, there are certain musicians who set up shop in single locales and stay so long as to become inseparable elements in the fabrics of such scenes. Jodie Christian, a Chicago resident since childhood, definitely falls into this latter category of homebody jazzman. Something of the Delmark house pianist since the early 90s the beginnings of his career in music actually date all the back to the late 40s when he was singer with a touring gospel group.
Reminiscing gives him a forum to reflect on his numerous decades in music, roaming through a program of tunes that have served as milestones in his musical road to maturity as a venerable veteran in the Chicago jazz community. His sidemen offer high caliber support and are rewarded with plenty of space of their own. Each track has special meaning, which the leader relates in the disc’s accompanying essay. Also included in the liners is a beautiful and intimate scrapbook of Christian’s life journey accompanied by an essay penned by the pianist himself.
A brisk version of “How Insensitive” propelled by Walton’s frisky snare and cymbals sets the ball rolling, but the tune fades sharply in mid-stride. Swishing cymbals frame “I’ll Close My Eyes” as Christian’s bright and gentle chords state and ruminate on the theme. Carroll keeps a steady walking pulse throughout the track’s near ten-minute duration breaking stride midway for a solo of his own. Walton closes out the tune’s tail end with some lithesome syncopation before a final flourish from Christian. The pianist’s solo interpretation of “My Man’s Gone Now” delivers the programmatic highpoint to these ears. It’s a beautifully simple distillation of the core melody rendered with the perfect blend of elegant sentiment and somber realism, which is later elaborated on through numerous variations. The remainder of the program is rife with standards save “Chicago Delta Blues,” a playful hybrid of South Side and Mississippi barrelhouse sensibilities, which Christian rolls out at a relaxed tempo sans accompaniment.
Christian is the quintessential late bloomer. Having been regular on the Windy City jazz scene for five decades, his debut album as a leader came for Delmark in 1992. Since then the label’s done him (and us as listeners) the service of providing him with a regular forum to circulate his substantial talents to a worldwide audience. This trio disc takes its place in a discography that while comparatively slim, will remain the legacy of one of Chicago’s finest jazz figures.
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Personnel: Jodie Christian- piano; Dennis Carroll- bass; Tony Walton- drums. Recorded: July 11 & 12, 2000, Chicago, IL.