Since the '80s, Michigan pianist Bill Carrothers has inventively and tirelessly fashioned himself an enviable discography, which includes 2008's Home Row (Pirouet Records, 2008) with Gary Peacock and Bill Stewart and 2010's tribute to revered trumpeter Clifford BrownJoy Spring (Pirouet Records, 2010 ). A critical fave on the touring circuit, he's highlighted gigs the world over, with Birdland, Europe's Rising Star Tour, and the Montreal Jazz Fest among many highlights. His post-bop style has shared the stage with the likes of saxophonist Dewey Redman, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and harmonica man Toots Thielemans.
Yet for all practical purposes, Carrothers is far from a household name in jazz households. Hopefully the extended themes, blurred overtones, and crisp, warm playing of Red Planet, on the Twin Cities-based Shifting Paradigm Records, brings his affinity for the masters and his ability to adapt the best of the modern into a stronger focus. Recorded with Minneapolis lynchpinsguitarist Dean Magraw, bassist Chris Bates and drummer Jay EpsteinRed Planet sizzles and swings. John Coltrane's "Living Space" shifts wondrously from intense guitar workout to an out-and-out hard bop revelry. The opening "Ann R Chi Suite" sounds and feels like it can morph into anything at the drop of a dime and usually does. And that's the tricky thing about the whole of Red Planet: just when you think it might go off the rails following Monk on two tracks and then Sammy Cahn, and on another the quartet's own lanky compositions, it all heads together remarkably for many compelling listens.
Ann R Chi Suite; Big Nick; Come Dance With Me; Unseen Rain; Living Space; Music Is a Weapon of Hope and Healing; La Luna; Freedom for the Broken; Reflections; Think of One.
Bill Carrothers: piano; Dean Magraw: guitar; Chris Bates: bass; Jay Epstein: drums