Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

13

Meilana Gillard: Dream Within A Dream

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
There are eight years between Ohio-born, Belfast-based tenor saxophonist Meilana Gillard's impressive debut, Day One (Inner circle Music, 2009), and her follow-up, Dream Within A Dream (Lyte Records, 2017) -simply way too long a gap for a musician and composer of her talents. Her debut, backed by Nir Felder, Tyshawn Sorey, Marcos Varela and Sam Barsh, flitted between classic jazz balladry and a more contemporary, upbeat vibe. For this all-acoustic outing, Gillard pins her old-school colors firmly to the mast, her warm yet bracing tenor sound echoing a tradition that runs from Sonny Rollins through Joe Lovano on a set of persuasive originals.

Gillard, who her honed her chops alongside A-listers in New York, is joined here by two of Ireland's finest—Mobo Award-nominated drummer David Lyttle—a veritable one-man industry—and in-demand bassist Neil Ó Lochlainn of contemporary folk/crossover groups Eriu Ensemble and Cuar. Gillard played with these two on and off for a couple of years, but it was a well-received concert at The Mac in early 2016, playing in Lyttle's trio with O'Lochlainn, that rekindled her enthusiasm to record -with the same musicians. It's easy to see why.

The trio's empathy is clear from the opener "Gene's Scene," with drummer and bassist providing empathetic support to Gillard as the saxophonist lays down an early marker with a fluid, blues-tinged improvisation of beguiling charm. Ó Lochlainn then teases out a leisurely, spacious solo of his own, with Lyttle artfully managing the trick of buoying and animating without casting too intrusive a shadow. The drummer briefly stretches out as Gillard returns, his subtly dynamic stick-work coaxing myriad colors from his kit. The head-solo-solo-head pattern is repeated on strong tunes like the upbeat "Connections" and the sultry "Dream Within a Dream," on what is in essence a stylistically homogenous recording.

Gillard champions mood and trio chemistry over striking compositional juxtapositions for the sake of it. In a way, the music is a celebration of the mainstream jazz of the 1950s and 1960s—and its modern acolytes—with blues, balladry and swing the blood swirling in the Gillard's veins. The standard "As Time Goes By" is addressed with caressing reverence until Gillard stretches out, but perhaps owing to the tune's sheer familiarity it lacks the fresh appeal of Gillard's own killing ballad "Light a Candle." Gillard, like Rollins or Branford Marsalis—another influence—is a fine, inventive interpreter of standards, but her own tunes exert a stronger allure, albeit with derivative style.

Ó Lochlainn's grooving ostinato and Lyttle's lithe, rhythmic push-and-pull drive the lively "Between Two Worlds"—underpinning one of Gillard's most expansive improvisations—freewheeling yet ever-melodious. Similar rhythmic elasticity is at the core of the jaunty "Revolving Door"—a feature for Lyttle—while "A Day in El Médano" proves the perfect set-closer, it's striking head, fast-walking bass and swinging trio interplay exude boppish energy, underpinned by a faintly Moorish air.

Gillard can, you feel, boast complete technical control of her horn, though doesn't need to demonstrate the fact every time she solos. There's plenty of fire in Gillard's playing, to be sure, but it's a passion tempered by lyricism and a firm narrative bent, qualities than make Dream Within a Dream a consistently rewarding experience. Hopefully, Gillard will kick on from here and bring her music to the wider audience it deserves.

Track Listing: Gene’s Scene; Connections; Dream Within a Dream; To Remain Nameless; As Time Goes By; Light a Candle; Between Two Worlds; Revolving Doors; a Day in El Médano

Personnel: Meilana Gillard: tenor saxophone; Neil Ó Loclainn: bass; David Lyttle: drums.

Title: Dream Within A Dream | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Lyte Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lux CD/LP/Track Review Lux
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Unleashed CD/LP/Track Review Unleashed
by John Sharpe
Published: January 20, 2018
Read I Think I'm Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I'm Going To Eat Dessert
by Jerome Wilson
Published: January 20, 2018
Read 20 CD/LP/Track Review 20
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Roppongi CD/LP/Track Review Roppongi
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Is Life Long? CD/LP/Track Review Is Life Long?
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 19, 2018
Read "Green Man" CD/LP/Track Review Green Man
by Jim Olin
Published: October 6, 2017
Read "Bricks" CD/LP/Track Review Bricks
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 17, 2017
Read "Last Dream of the Morning" CD/LP/Track Review Last Dream of the Morning
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 28, 2017
Read "Developing Story" CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival
by John Sharpe
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "Kingdom" CD/LP/Track Review Kingdom
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 20, 2017