Celebration of Soul
is the tenth and final album in a series of recordings made in just three years by guitarist/composer Josh Maxey
. Such a uniquely prolific output did not happen by accident. Maxey says "The key to the series has been having a goal beyond what I would have considered reasonable." The series is a creative declaration from a musician who considers himself an improviser, composer and bandleader in equal parts. It documents 50 original compositions with 20 musicians.
The title of this collection was also chosen very deliberately. Maxey describes the music as "a celebration of the jazz tradition, the sound of a band approaching new compositions with the intent of expressing not just the notes found on the page but the meaning that brings life to music...It brings the listener back, time and again, to the most primal and fundamental part of themselves: soul."
The core group here has played on the previous nine recordings in the series, building a great rapport. Brian Charette
(Lou Donaldson, Houston Person, Tony Desare, Bucky Pizzarelli) is an experienced master of the organ. Acclaimed jazz guitarist Rodney Jones
(Dizzy Gillespie, Lena Horne, Jaki Byard, Chico Hamilton), has been a mentor to Maxey, and is a special guest on several tracks. Saxophonist Chase Baird
(Herbie Hancock, Joe Lovano, Randy Brecker, Jason Moran, Aaron Parks) makes a strong contribution on every tune. Drummer Jeremy Noller
(Eddie Henderson, Dick Oatts, Bucky Green) completes the swinging, rock solid rhythm section.
But the program proper is bookended by the contrasting tunes "Brooklyn Sunrise" and "Colorado Sunset," soundscapes featuring Dave Parnell on acoustic guitar, Brett Parnell on lap steel guitar and Michael Cioffero on slide guitar. Much more than mere curiosities, these tracks would be right at home on ambient albums with Michael Brook or Daniel Lanois
. Then the title tune begins, and we're quickly in classic hard bop organ quartet territory, albeit with a contemporary flavor. Guest guitarist Rodney Jones makes his first appearance on "Light and Shade" at first playing a sly, supportive rhythm guitar part, before joining in for the round of solos. So he's very much a part of the band, not just a star soloist.
Maxey makes an impression as both composer and guitarist on the whole program. "Culmination" evokes the spirit of John Coltrane
, one of Maxey's stated influences. Even the obligatory blues ("Blues For Page") has a memorable head, and the arrangement changes things up by giving Jones the first solo. The album concludes with radio mixes of three of the tracks, which are really edits for length rather than remixes. I hope radio programmers make use of these. They're compelling, memorable tunes made even stronger by concision.