All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

8

Jeff Denson & Joshua White: I'll Fly Away

Robert Bush By

Sign in to view read count
Jeff Denson has been alto saxophone legend Lee Konitz's bassist of choice for the past several years, and it's easy to see why on this superlative duet album of gospel music with the explosive pianist Joshua White, who, at age 28 appears ready to take the world by storm. White has almost twenty years of experience playing gospel music—obvious by the great liberties he uses to transform this music while retaining a visceral authenticity.

There are three radically different versions of the title track here, but the opening take on I'll Fly Away, is a stunner. Over the dark and wood-grain pulse of Denson, White expounds like a player-piano infused with the holy spirit, as well as a liberal dash of Cecil Taylor to keep it real.

Indeed, much of what makes this disc so satisfying is the open embrace of dissonant textures and audacious harmonic choices—which add depth to a program imbued with joyous consonance. Denson's pizzicato intro to "Down at the Cross," is deep, dark and soulful and White's sparkling lyricism compares very favorably to similar work by Keith Jarrett. The bassist begins his solo tour-de-force on "Amazing Grace," with throaty bowed harmonics that cut into the ether and it only gets deeper from there.

The tender exchange on "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," might have lapsed into the maudlin, but the pensive dialog sails clear with White's melodic cascades and Denson's resonant, Charlie Haden like tone. "When the Saints Go Marching In," emerges drastically retooled, and the two improvisers exploit the altered form as a vehicle to dart in and around oncoming traffic with spontaneous ideas. White's unbridled virtuosity is loosed on "Just As I Am," as waves of impressions pile atop each other in dense, violent layers.

Beautifully recorded by Adam Munoz at the iconic Fantasy Studios, in Berkeley, California, this recording captures Denson's huge sound in great detail, especially in the solo bass reading of "Crying in the Chapel," where it moans like a wounded leviathan. The delicate waltz of the penultimate tune, "In the Garden," begins with almost classical gestures, but by the time the body of the tune emerges—a more modern exchange of singing voices dominates.

One of the finest bass and piano discs to surface in a long time, I'll Fly Away, is worth seeking out.

Track Listing: I'll Fly Away (Version One; Lord I want to be a Christian; Down at the Cross; Amazing Grace; I'll Fly Away (Version Two); What a Friend We Have in Jesus; When the Saints Go Marching In; Just As I Am; Crying in the Chapel; In the Garden; I'll Fly Away (Version Three).

Personnel: Jeff Denson: double-bass; Joshua White: piano

Title: I'll Fly Away | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: pfMentum

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read My Singing Fingers CD/LP/Track Review
My Singing Fingers
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 25, 2018
Read Ain't It Grand? CD/LP/Track Review
Ain't It Grand?
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 25, 2018
Read If Not Now, When? CD/LP/Track Review
If Not Now, When?
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 25, 2018
Read Perfectly Unhappy CD/LP/Track Review
Perfectly Unhappy
by Gareth Thompson
Published: May 25, 2018
Read Sorrows & Triumphs CD/LP/Track Review
Sorrows & Triumphs
by Jerome Wilson
Published: May 25, 2018
Read Half Light CD/LP/Track Review
Half Light
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 24, 2018
Read "Song of the Silver Geese" CD/LP/Track Review Song of the Silver Geese
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 18, 2017
Read "The Big Beat" CD/LP/Track Review The Big Beat
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 16, 2017
Read "Atody Man" CD/LP/Track Review Atody Man
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 27, 2018
Read "Whose Feet are These That are Walking" CD/LP/Track Review Whose Feet are These That are Walking
by Mike Jacobs
Published: October 9, 2017
Read "Ran Do" CD/LP/Track Review Ran Do
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 5, 2018
Read "When The Birds Leave" CD/LP/Track Review When The Birds Leave
by Don Phipps
Published: March 1, 2018