On Soul Progressin', Lafayette Gilchrist mixes a funky sensibility with, above all else, a sense of play. The album showcases the young pianist's compositions in a no-holds-barred, gutsy display of honest sound. Throughout, Gilchrist is supported by the strong horn section (two trumpets, three saxophones) that defines his band, the New Volcanoes.
Gilchrist presents a range of compositions on the album, but all of them straddle a line between genres while maintaining a genuinely personal, distinct feel. The first notes of the title track establish a sense of funa straightforward blues, which, with the introduction of the rhythm section, breaks into a set of gliding, funky lines. This track is far from the atmosphere of "Those Frowning Clowns," which ridicules the contemporary American political scene. Through wild, circus-like sounds and the intentional weirdness of the arrangement, Gilchrist manages to speak in his own voice. At the same time, though, he also pays homage to a crucial forebear: Charles Mingus' 1959 "Fables of Faubus," from Mingus Ah Um (Columbia), which brought a glibness to the jazz protest song.
The defining feature of Gilchrist as a composer is a rough-edged esoterica: he enjoys coarse sounds that fall just outside the domain of blues and roots. Many of his compositions involve pounding on the keys or wailing on the horns. While there are occasions when he does dip into atonal textures in order to reach his desired strangeness, most often he comes at it in a language all his own.
This aesthetic works with varying success. A song like "Between Us" is exciting and varied, moving from section to section almost like a through-written suite. "Detective's Tip," described as the author's "film noir fantasies," seems more like a somewhat vapid Medeski Martin & Wood composition, and has little lasting effect.
Above all, Gilchrist has developed a signature sound which is inarguably present here. With highpoints as well ungainly moments, Soul Progressin' speaks with the voice of an artist pursuing his own craft an authenticity that is reason enough to give it a listen.
Soul Progressin'; Between Us; Come Get Some; Uncrowned; Those Frowning Clowns; Detective's Tip; Many Exits No Doors.
Lafayette Gilchrist: piano; John Dierker: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Gregory L Thompkins: tenor saxophone; Gabriel Ware: alto saxophone; Mike Cerri: Trumpet; Freddy Dunn: trumpet; Anthony "Blue" Jenkins: bass; Nathan Reynolds: drums.