Two questions come to mind when encountering Billy Child's intriguing, long-overdue new release. First, what exactly is "jazz-chamber music"? Is the "chamber music" part simply a function of adding classical instrumentation (strings, harp) or a reference to occasional resemblances to Bach and Satie and the French impressionistsor is it just a new banner flying over what used to be called the "third stream"?
Then, after listening to Lyric once or twice, a second question emerges: Why should we care what it's called? The music is lovely and lush, variously urgent and tranquil, and always elegantly scored; Childs' piano playing is nothing less than... well, lyrical. It's truly beautiful stuff, wherever you choose to file it, much of it commissioned pieces where traditional jazz flows through some heart-soaring orchestral landscapes.
Of course, others have tried merging jazz and classical music, with varying degrees of success. (Two of the best examples are Fred Hersch's French-and Russian-composer trio CDs, now criminally out of print, and Chick Corea's ultimate version of "Spain" with the London Philharmonic, which happily is not.) In line with the best of these efforts, Childs transcends all the arbitrary stylistic barriers without abandoning structure and sense; he's an authentic artist, so this ain't no self-indulgent noodling.
The music is also corporation-free, since Childs has birthed this CD with the help of the midwives at ArtistShare. As such, Lyric is only available through Billy Childs on the web.
In Carson's Eyes' Goodbye, Friend; Into the Light; Prelude in Bb Major; The Old Man Tells
His Story; Hope, in the Face of Despair; Scarborough Fair; Quiescence; American
Billy Childs: piano; Larry Koonse: nylon-string and steel-string acoustic guitar; Bob
Sheppard: soprano sax, alto sax, alto flute, Bb clarinet; Carol Robbins: harp; Scott Colley:
acoustic bass (1,2,4-6,8); Brian Blade: drums (1,2,5-8); Jimmy Johnson: electric bass