In music as well as life, to succeed one must often take chances, jazz is undoubtedly filled with risk takers which were essential in determining this music. The saxophone for Roy McGrath
has taken him on a remarkable journey since leaving his home in Puerto Rico to seek his musical passion. It wound through many years studying and gigging in Boston, and New Orleans, ending up in Chicago with further education and performing opportunities. Leading an inspiring quartet, he ventured into the studio to record Martha,
his path in life portrayed through his horn.
This record is dedicated to the memory of his late grandmother Martha, so it is fundamentally an emotional farewell for her, as well as a spiritual awakening signifying a new beginning for him. Cole Porter's "Night and Day," is given a renewed arrangement and conveys just what the title implies, roaming from the quieter shades of darkness into the bright Spanish tinged brightness.
Pianist Joaquin Garcia plays an extended intro to the ballad "Maybe Please Don't Lie," setting the scenario for bassist Kit Lyles and McGrath to gently glide in. "Spirit of the Living God," an original take on a vintage hymn, swings with a gospel feel to it. "Martha," is the thought provoking centerpiece, setting a somber requiem mood as it leads up to the solitary sax's lonely refrain, as if to whisper a hushed goodbye.
"Patty Cakes," is light hearted and spacious, where pianist Garcia again shines, as does his playing throughout the entire production. The jazzy waltz "Sileray," exhibits imaginative compositional sophistication which McGrath is quite capable of. Drummer Gustavo Cortiñas
, which has accompanied him for some time now, displays a distinctive ability to keep the tempo free yet fixated.
It's back to the groove on "Rue Nov. 7," written during an extended tenure in New Orleans. It represents the no nonsense straight ahead jazz which can be heard down on Frenchmen Street, where the tourists don't wander, and the river goes on forever.
The final tune "Kintsugi," is in McGrath's own words: "based on the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted with powdered gold. As a philosophy, it signifies an embracing of the flawed or imperfect." Once more, he shows his acute sense of shape shifting by allowing the freedom of reinvention to flourish.
is not Roy McGrath's first solo effort as leaderhe did a trio project "Long Shot," in 2010it is a culmination of his dedication to his craft. He has not only adapted the techniques and rudiments associated with jazz, but has gone on to live the life of an artist seeking knowledge and finesse. This record is acknowledgement that he has arrived.
Night and Day; Maybe Please Don’t Lie; Spirit of the Living God; Martha; Patty Cakes; Sileray; Rue Nov. 7; Kintsugi.
Roy McGrath: tenor saxophone; Joaquin Garcia: piano; Kitt Lyles: upright bass; Gustavo Cortiñas: drums.