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Lafayette Gilchrist: Undaunted

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Lafayette Gilchrist: Undaunted
On Undaunted Washington D.C.-raised and Baltimore-educated pianist Lafayette Gilchrist continues his idiosyncratically swinging trajectory with deep grooves, memorable lines and the gritty, unapologetic type of interplay that first brought him international acclaim on the 2004 recording The Music According To Lafayette Gilchrist. Few will have forgotten the catchy track "Assume The Position" off that album, used prominently in the popular David Simon-produced series "The Wire." Some of the funkier, more electric bits in his writing have been replaced with a lighter acoustic touch and sophisticated ensemble arrangements in which his band of trombonist Christian Hizon, saxophonist Brian Settles, Herman Burney on bass and Eric Kennedy on drums is expanded with the percussive injections of Kevin Pinder. Gilchrist's signature style remains muscular and powerfully charged on this new recording. Still, it seems to have been updated with tricks learned from studying the classic arrangements of Duke Ellington.

The main melody of the opening title track "Undaunted" is as simple as it is brilliant, spinning its main figure around a four-chord-foundation before being sequenced through minor harmonies with added tensions. Both slightly ominous and a bit obscure, then suspiciously laid-back, this opening cut has all the qualities that define Gilchrist's unique compositional approach. His piano playing has never relied on technical showboating but rather on the art of smashing just the right line or block chord across the keys —at just the right time. The band reacts accordingly, imitating a notion that could be described as an expertly perfected ruggedness. Too dirty to be called polished and too clean to be considered muddy, its quality feels like something writer Charles Portis had in mind when he spoke of "True Grit."

"Ride It Out" is a mid-tempo groover with a Latin American tinge, featuring alternating solos by Hizon, Settles, and Gilchrist that hover over Burney's tasty bass-ostinato. There's plenty of cool pulse to go around and the players keep it alive with heavy hands. "Into The Swirl" then picks up the pace and finds the horns blowing a sustained melody over a Stravinsky-like whirlwind of a rhythmic foundation. The energetic drive does not stop from there and pushes through the seven-minute structure like a storm. The ominous element mentioned earlier returns on "Southern Belle"—another patiently grooving structure with a New Orleans twist at its core.

With "Metropolitan Musings (Them Streets Again)" Gilchrist closes the album as if he were setting credits to the end of a movie, reassessing the previously revealed in a new light but also with the kind of conviction one can only have, knowing that something has been concluded and completed. Gilchrist's pianism is to the fore here, building strong momentum to a powerful rhythmic backdrop that propels him forward. The composer-pianist rarely surfaces with new music, but when he does, he tends to deliver in strides.

Track Listing

Undaunted; Ride It Out; In the Swirl; Southern Belle; Metropolitan Musings (Them Streets Again).

Personnel

Album information

Title: Undaunted | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Morphius Records


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