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Billy Childs: The Winds of Change

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Billy Childs: The Winds of Change
Billy Childs, one of the most critically acclaimed pianists in modern jazz, is in high demand as a modern classical composer. He has played and composed music ranging from orchestral to chamber works to contemporary small ensemble jazz. This has brought him five Grammy awards to date.

Starting as a pianist in his native Los Angeles, he then spent six years with Freddie Hubbard's band before becoming a leader in his own right. He has performed with a variety of artists including Sting, Wynton Marsalis, Jack DeJohnette and Chris Botti. On The Winds of Change, he is joined by trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade.

This album offers five new compositions alongside two covers. Many of the compositions are sparked by Childs' experience of growing up in Los Angeles mixed with his passion for film scores, especially the urban landscapes evoked by composers like Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and Bernard Hermann. The result is a refined post-bop sound that pushes the creative boundaries of the group and pays homage to his early work from the 1970s and 1980s.

The opening track, "The Great Western Loop," evokes the open spaces of the seven thousand-mile hiking trail from Southern California to Vancouver and on to the Grand Canyon. It begins with an intense piano riff and Akinmusire's soaring trumpet. Colley and Blade offer Akinmusire a platform for his trumpet breaks and provide the rhythmic drive through the various sections. The album is filled with cinematic devices, clearly apparent in the dynamic title track with its dramatic cascading piano motif. Written as an orchestral feature for the late trumpeter Roy Hargrove, it surges and recedes as Childs and Akinmusire converse in imaginative dialogue.

"The End of Innocence," originally recorded by Childs on Portrait of a Player (Windham Hill, 1993) stretches out over a melancholy mid-tempo rhythm and features melodic piano and an artful bass break from Colley. "Master of the Game" is another film-inspired tune, Child cites Henry Mancini's music for the 1963 film Charade and Michel Legrand's 1968 soundtrack to The Thomas Crown Affair. Childs and Akinmusire work together to convey the theme between the complexity of the numerous sections.

The first of the covers is the late Chick Corea's "Crystal Silence." All the quartet is in top form here: Akinmusire's breathy trumpet, Colley's bass solo, Blade's subtle percussion and Childs' painterly piano make this a spellbinding tribute. The mood is then changed by a bustling exploration of Kenny Barron's "The Black Angel" (originally on Freddie Hubbard's 1970 Atlantic recording of the same name). The album ends with "I Thought I Knew," the tune being gently explored and expanded by Childs, Colley and Blade.

The originals and covers are inspired by the intrigue of film noir soundtracks together with West Coast landscapes and cityscapes. The quartet pays due respect to the past, but this is interactive contemporary jazz full of purposeful musical excerpts that play well for today. The results are well worth a listen.

Track Listing

The Great Western Loop; The Winds of Change; The End of Innocence; Master of the Game; Crystal Silence; The Black Angel; I Thought I Knew.

Personnel

Album information

Title: The Winds of Change | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records


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