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Album Review

James Gilmore: Decorating Time


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James Gilmore: Decorating Time
"You can find a song that goes with your vocabulary," guitarist James Gilmore has averred. It's not because his album's label, Ears and Eyes, is based in Buenos Aires that the opening title track of Decorating Time speaks in what feels like a new language, or at least a new dialect. Maybe it's something about North Carolina, where Gilmore, bassist Butler Knowles, and drummer Kassem Williams all live and record. That state, like Argentina's capitol city, is said to be a kind of breeding ground for a hybrid evolution of jazz.

Consider the tantalizing earworms that abound on this album, glistening in the tones of Gilmore's 1986 Gibson ES-335. Gilmore has gigged with guitar anarchist Eugene Chadbourne, but his exhibition here is considerably more user-friendly. The syntax of his original compositions is simple but alluring, elusive without need of genus identification, though the sweet support by the rhythm players reflects their jazz grounding. They share also a playful purpose, apparent on the second track, "Ding, Dong." Can one risk a spoiler by saying that the title nods to a favorite childhood movie?

The fun continues with "Mammal Female Mother Laws," Gilmore wielding a tantalizing but clean approach to harmony, pulsed by Knowles and shimmered by Williams' cymbal work. "Drip" is Knowles' ticklish strut down a shady alley, the guitar humming in a pensive minor mode, then mutating to excited blackbird chitter. Among the album's architectural idiosyncracies is a pair of tracks titled "Stairs I" and "Stairs II," the first postulating constructivist shapes, the second hastening and syncopating them. Between these two is positioned "The Soul Is a Lattice," a 6/8 improvisational outing for Gilmore with a enhanced with a Boss octave pedal.

"Vulture and Cockroach" brings in yet another earworm, this one tagged with what evokes a three-tone vehicular horn, overdriven through an Ibanez tube screamer. The "Theme for Kassem" evokes a different drummer, the late visionary and guitar-friendly dynamo Ronald Shannon Jackson, with Gilmore here deploying echo, reverb and delectable buffet of distortion effects and alt chords. All this is secured by the delightfully audible like-mindedness of the trio.

The session ends as provocatively as it began, with a track that at first sounds a sad distant trade whistle (actually an Eharmonix Freeze pedal), followed by plaintive chords which some of us, smiling in surprise, will make out as Willie Nelson's pop crossover country classic "Crazy," written in the late 1950s and indelibly recorded by Patsy Cline in 1961. With Decorating Time's only non-original, Gilmore respectfully puts the old love song on giddy shimmering sedatives, with Williams blissing out beyond time, in the spirit of Sunny Murray. Nelson would probably be grinning, while the rest of us wonder where the engagingly idiosyncratic Gilmore will be taking us next.

Track Listing

Decorating Time; Ding, Dong; Mammal Female Mother Laws; The Drip; Stairs I; The Soul Is A Lattice; Stairs II; Vulture and Cockroach; Theme For Kassem; Crazy (Willie Nelson).


James Gilmore: guitar; Butler Knowles: bass; Kassem Williams: drums.

Album information

Title: Decorating Time | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: ears&eyes Records

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