Chris McCarthy: Still Time to Quit

Friedrich Kunzmann BY

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Chris McCarthy: Still Time to Quit
Only two minutes into "That's All You Get," the opening track to pianist Chris McCarthy's debut recording for Ropeadope Records, Still Time To Quit, and already it seems that everything that had to be said was said. Maybe that's why at this point the track coincidentally also reaches its end. A savage yet controlled display of friction and constant motion. At its core a rabidly jumping call-and-response structure, the opener displays the leader's scarily-dexterous chops on piano through speed as much as melodic control, all the while in tight yet free-spirited interplay with a band whose sonic profile resembles the mean chemistry of Ornette Coleman's early 60s quartet featuring Dewey Redman and Don Cherry. Of course, this isn't all we get. The next track's title continues to aptly narrate the listener through a blissful album.

"Ready, Steady, Here You Go!." The energy-filled blowout introduces the rebellious post-bop drive that runs through the album like a thread and presents the never-ending stream of ideas the quintet passes through the ranks like hot potatoes. Just when the skin appears to cool down, McCarthy will come up with another slick line on the upper piano register which the band reacts to with appropriate vigor and potential to combust. Jk kim 's beat-driven drum work, as prominently featured in "Shockingly Effective" or "Valedictorian Driver," induces the album with a hip-hop notion, giving the quintet's otherwise traditionalist approach a unique frame and fitting contrast.

Calmer pieces, as represented by "Toasty" or "Happy Tired," see the band taking a step back and cooling things off with a more immediate melodic approach, the lyrical horns guided by generous piano chord spreads. On "Toasty" a powerful bridge-like section made up of short harmonic modulations gives way for an exchange of brief yet strapping solos, presenting the collective skillset of the group in a summarized way. There's no denying the special chemistry between the players here, resulting in a sense of restlessness with which every instrumental branch is intimately intertwined with each other.

Rather textural sequences make up the last third of the record and demonstrate the free-improv side of the band's interplay. When saxophonist Michael Blake switches to flute on "The Nightmares" he adds a fittingly chilling quality to the slowly crescendoing exhibition based around a cyclical up and down moving bass pattern and a single melody. Repetition also graces "Bury Me In Times Square (Underneath The M&M Store)," closing the album on a meditative note.

Chris McCarthy has made a name for himself as a sideman for the likes of trumpeter Jason Palmer and bassist Ben Allison. But with Still Time To Quit, the pianist and composer steps out of the sideman's shadow and establishes himself as a firm leader and gifted pianist to be reckoned with. A Monkish spirit seems channelled in the waggish question and answer constructions, but this influence doesn't come at the cost of McCarthy's very own original voice. By doing his own thing, McCarthy succeeds at radiating a certain sense of timelessness through his compositions that make up this remarkable record.

Track Listing

That's All You Get; Ready, Steady, Here You Go!; Shockingly Effective; Toasty; Valedictorian Driver; Happy Tired; The Nightmares; Bury Me In Times Square.


Chris McCarthy: piano; Takuya Kuroda: trumpet; Michael Blake: saxophone, tenor; Sam Minaie: bass; Jk kim : drums.

Album information

Title: Still Time to Quit | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Ropeadope

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