Pianist Bill O'Connell
, who has been at the top of his game for more than four decades with no signs of slowing down, says each of his albums is a snapshot of how he is feeling at a particular time in his life. A Change Is Gonna Come
expresses O'Connell's frame of mind after enduring more than two years of the Coronavirus pandemic. By and large, the mood is optimistic, underscoring his belief that the worst of the pandemic could be in the rear view mirror.
O'Connell wrote seven of the album's ten numbers, and they traverse the spectrum from bright to brooding, upbeat to meditative. At the keyboard, O'Connell's approach is sharp and percussive but never devoid of lyricism or awareness. The Latin blueprint for which he is best known is usually close at hand and ready to be applied. To help keep things interesting, O'Connell varies the group size and instrumentation, using saxophonist Craig Handy
on five tracks, percussionist Pedrito Martinez
on four. O'Connell, bassist Lincoln Goines
and drummer Steve Jordan
comprise the core trio, which performs on the beguiling opener, John Coltrane
's "Moment's Notice," and O'Connell's pensive "Prayer for Us." Goines plays acoustic bass on six numbers, electric bass on four.
Among the surprises is the finale, the Victor Young/Ned Washington standard "My Foolish Heart," which is normally played as a ballad but is revamped here as a crisp and funky foxtrot. Another is the breezy calypso "Sun for Sunny," wherein O'Connell erases any doubt about the dedicatee's name by incorporating a phrase from Sonny Rollins
' "St. Thomas" in the melody. Martinez makes his first appearance on O'Connell's impulsive samba, "Loco-Motive," which lays bare his Latin affinity, and adds lively percussion on "Sun For Sonny," "Sweet Peanut" and the free-wheeling "Chaos." Handy, another free spirit, unlimbers his tenor saxophone on "Enough Is Enough" and Sam Cooke
's "A Change Is Gonna Come," his soprano saxophone on "Covid Blues," "Sun for Sonny" and "Chaos."
There is an abundance of bright and listenable music on A Change Is Gonna Come
, with O'Connell's keen, lively piano in the forefront, ably supported by Goines, Jordan and their guests. And if that is not enough, it could help cure those "Covid Blues."
Moment’s Notice; Loco-Motive; Covid Blues; A Change Is Gonna Come; Sun for Sonny;
Enough Is Enough; Sweet Peanut; A Prayer for Us; Chaos; My Foolish Heart.
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