Recorded live, pianist Lafayette Gilchrist
's second solo recording, Dark Matter
, embraces the long history of jazz bound to the beat and textures of a specific time and place, rather than stylistic pedigree or lineage of influencers. Its rhythms are the jackhammer throb, subway rattle, and relentless pulse of Baltimore, Philly, and Washington, D.C. It's textures the rust laden steel, aged brick, languid nights, and hardened density of these original East Coast cities; our remnants of the railroad era, bastions of the working class, and cross-roads of African-American culture.
A musical autodidact, Gilchrist has exhibited a broad knowledge of jazz piano since he emerged on the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. scene 15 years ago, absent the stultification that can accompany more standardized curriculum and prescribed codification. His thirteen years touring with David Murray
and the mellowing that emerges with the passage of timehave added diversity and depth to Gilchrist's style. For example, more prominent now are the subtilties of an Oscar Peterson
and the intricacies of a McCoy Tyner
than on earlier material, like The Music According to Lafayette Gilchrist
(HYENA Records, 2004) or Towards The Shining Path
(HYENA Records, 2016).
However, Dark Matter
demonstrates a remarkable consistency of voice, with the above refinements operating more as adornments than any fundamental departure from the stylistic foundation Gilchrist developed as a self-taught player, worked out alone on a stumbled-upon piano at the University of Maryland. This cocktail of stride, hard bop, blues, funk, and Washington, D.C.'s endemic form Go-Go is as specific to the East Coast corridor as it is to Gilchrist.
Also evident throughout the album are the tell-tale rhythms of the boxing gym, which Gilchrist encountered as a young teenager. According to Gilchrist, after descending a set of stairs to a basement gym, he was captivated by the sounds saturating the close space. The triplet pop of the speed bag. The syncopated snap of the jump rope. The baritone thud of the heavy bag. Gilchrist did not pursue boxing beyond a few years, but his music continues to evoke pugilism's jagged rhythms and the bounce and shuffle of the boxer's waltz.
These early elements form the DNA of Gilchrist's playing and permeate Dark Matter
's eleven original tunes, starting with the funky groove and jabbing left hand of "For The Go Go" straight through to the shuffling closing piece "Greeting." Another example of Gilchrist's strong left hand and rhythmic command includes "Blues for our Marches to End." Composed in response to the Ferguson, Missouri protests against police violence, the piece's stabbing beats and piercing, blues-laden lines combine to form a sobering lament. Gilchrist's piston-like left is also evident on the swaggering "Happy Birthday Sucka," as well as the roiling "Spontaneous Combustion."
Not all of Dark Matter
is equally propulsive, though all the tunes possess a strong pulse. "Love Bind's" melancholic lilt, the blues-steeped, rumbling "And You Know This," as well as the intricately articulated "Old Whale Bones," demonstrate a subtle artfulness built on unpredictable, yet memorable, phrasing.
Ranging from sardonic to poignant to politically pointed, Gilchrist's Dark Matter
bristles. Its rhythms swing and stalk, propelling Gilchrist's explosive phrases and striking melodies, which fall in unexpected combinations to construct an aural portrait of the East Coast's fomenting culture, vibrant motion, and musical heritage.