Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Greg Ward and 10 Tongues - Touch My Beloved's Thought (Greenleaf, 2016)

Paying homage to the classic Charles Mingus album The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady would be challenging enough, but writing an original suite based on that legendary work and then having it set to dance is a real test. Alto saxophonist Greg Ward succeeds admirably on all accounts, composing and leading a ten-piece band in a rousing suite of music that both honors Mingus and develops a fresh and original concept of its own. You can hear the great bassist’s musical style threaded throughout the work, especially on the opening “Daybreak” where there is there is deep and rich playing from the seven-member horn section punctuated by Ward’s tart and lively saxophone soloing. There is some appropriately thick bass on “The Menacing Lean” along with horn riffs that could storm any barricade, while a sense of wistful beauty on the lush ballad “With All Your Sorrow, Sing a Song of Jubilance” which is preceded by the chaotic brief intro sequence “Smash, Push, Pull, Crash.” The ballad has rich and velvety horn playing, particularly from the brass. “Grit” is a short and brief swinging performance with cooking piano, bass and drums supporting a muscular tenor saxophone solo, and “Round Three” moves even deeper with punchy horns and another fine saxophone solo framed by spare droplets of piano. There is another exceptional bass solo (Jason Roebke truly rises to the occasion on this album) on “Dialogue of the Black Saint” before the horns take flight with an excellent section of wah-accentuated brass. “Gather Round, The Revolution Is At Hand” ends the album with an episodic suite within a suite, beginning with light, nimble and very colorful horns. There are vibrant broad strokes of color, and a majestic trumpet solo that flashes overhead like a shooting star. Light toned saxophone with drums and percussion lead the band, which is very tight and seems to breathe as one organism before diving into one final cacophonous section that ends the album on a glorious resolution. The writing, arranging and playing are fantastic on this record. This is not repertoire, but a tribute album in the finest sense, one that takes inspiration from a celebrated musician and album but creates its own unique and original sound world. Touch My Beloved's Thought -

Send comments to Tim.