380

Bill Carrothers: Civil War Diaries: Solo Piano

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Bill Carrothers: Civil War Diaries: Solo Piano If pianist Bill Carrothers hadn't found his way to music, he might have been a historian. Fortunately, Carrothers has found a unique way to combine both interests. Armistice 1918 (Sketch, 2004) was a remarkably broad-scoped concept piece that brought together his own thought-provoking compositions with imaginative reworkings of popular songs from the First World War. But that wasn't the first time Carrothers mined archival wartime music. The Blues and the Greys (Bridgeboy, 1997), the first release under his own name, put a distinctly personal slant on material from the American Civil War and established him as a fresh voice worth watching.

Despite widespread critical acclaim, Sketch's unfortunate dissolution caused Armistice 1918 to disappear all too quickly. The good news is that Philippe Ghielmetti, the man behind Sketch, is back with a new label, and its first release is Carrothers' latest, the solo piano Civil War Diaries. Recorded live in the studio in front of a small audience of invitees, Carrothers takes greater liberty with his source material than on The Blues and the Greys, extending it to create a powerful emotional statement about the moral ambiguities of war without uttering a single word.

All nine tracks can also be found on The Blues and the Greys, but in the true spirit of jazz—articulated with finesse in Carrothers' own liner notes—they have evolved considerably, and Carrothers' own growth as a pianist gives these new treatments even deeper emotional resonance. While the original version of "Tenting on the Old Campground is lyrical and elegant, here Carrothers turns it into a darker, more abstract piece that's disturbing rather than uplifting. Equally, "Weeping Sad and Lonely takes on a more brooding complexion. The familiar melody is there, but Carrothers turns it into something bleaker and more complex. Even though a more bittersweet and faithful reading appears two-thirds of the way through, there's a subtle undercurrent that keeps things unsettled and off-kilter.

Carrothers turns "The Yellow Rose of Texas into a blues that demonstrates his ability to combine roots in the jazz tradition with a wider harmonic outlook. Much as pianist/friend Marc Copland consistently finds ways to put a distinctly contemporary stamp on even the most overplayed of standards, Carrothers reinvents archival songs that are almost part of the collective subconscious into something wholly modern.

Throughout, the pianist's improvised extensions develop logically—there's no grandstanding here, nor is there the feeling that he's just applying what he knows. Instead, every tune—from the understated grandeur of "Bonnie Blue Flag to the slight dissonances of "Carry My Back to Old Virginia —is filled with a sense of discovery, where Carrothers may be as surprised at where the songs take him as his audience. They say jazz is the sound of surprise, and Civil War Diaries is defined by the unexpected. And when comparing the American zeitgeist of 2005 to that of 1997, Carrothers' reprisal of the material proves that art truly reflects the times in which we live.

Note: Civil War Diaries is available in the US only through Bridgeboy Music.


Track Listing: Tenting on the Old Campground; Weeping Sad and Lonely; The Yellow Rose of Texas; The Cavalry March; Bonnie Blue Flag; Carry Me Back to Old Virginia; Kingdom Come; All Quiet Along the Potomac; Dixie.

Personnel: Bill Carrothers: piano.

Title: Civil War Diaries: Solo Piano | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Illusions Music


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read The Company I Keep CD/LP/Track Review The Company I Keep
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Ma De Re Sha CD/LP/Track Review Ma De Re Sha
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Ask Seek Knock CD/LP/Track Review Ask Seek Knock
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Air and Light and Time and Space CD/LP/Track Review Air and Light and Time and Space
by John Eyles
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "Reciprocity" CD/LP/Track Review Reciprocity
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 15, 2016
Read "Reflections" CD/LP/Track Review Reflections
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 25, 2017
Read "You'll Never Know" CD/LP/Track Review You'll Never Know
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 31, 2017
Read "Deep Memory" CD/LP/Track Review Deep Memory
by John Sharpe
Published: December 22, 2016
Read "Colosseum Live" CD/LP/Track Review Colosseum Live
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 10, 2016
Read "Acceptance" CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.