JOE GILMAN: “RELATIVITY” (Capri 74119)
In his previous albums, Joe Gilman has re-interpreted the music of Dave Brubeck and Stevie Wonder, and created musical impressions of 20th century visual art. For his latest recording, “Relativity”, Gilman takes on the brilliant and bizarre artworks of M.C. Escher. The cover of the album reproduces Escher’s lithograph of the same name, and the mixture of detailed realism and gravity-defying structures aptly describes the music on the CD. The compositions work within the established framework of the bebop jazz quintet (trumpet, sax, piano, bass and drums) but add shrinking phrase lengths, tone rows, odd meters and unusual colors to evoke the bizarre happenings in Escher’s imaginary world. Pieces inspired by Escher’s nature-inspired works “Three Worlds” and “Snow” offer momentary respites from the exploratory nature of the album. Gilman wrote six of the album’s eleven pieces, with the remainder composed by pianist Scott Collard, associate producer Noah Kellman and tenor saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown. Gilman plays piano throughout, and is the main soloist on the album. The rest of the quintet members are Gilman’s former students at the Brubeck Institute (Nick Frenay trumpet, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown tenor sax, Zach Brown bass, and Corey Fonville drums). The former Brubeck Fellows do a superb job of realizing these sometimes complex compositions. Gilman’s liner notes give descriptions of the original art works and detailed information on the musical structures. “Relativity” is an album that will challenge and enlighten all who hear it.
Below is a recent review of “Relativity” from allaboutjazz.com
Joe Gilman: Relativity (2012)
By: DAN BILAWSKY
Published: November 19, 2012
M.C. Escher captured the imagination of the world with his perspective-altering artwork. Escher’s mind’s eye and eye’s mind challenged people to see things differently, and pianist Joe Gilman has found inspiration in his brilliant work. Gilman, who previously delved into the music-inspired-by-art realm on Americanvas (Capri, 2010), uses Escher’s creations as inspirational seeds and guiding forces for this music. He takes a good, hard look at eleven of Escher’s pieces, with music written to capture what he saw.
Gilman’s constructs reflect Escher’s unique outlook on life, but they’re not all about fun house mirrors, oddities and upside down observances. Gilman is just as likely to throw in a burner (“Smaller And Smaller”) or a calm wintery suggestion (“Snow”) as he is to include a number built on different forms of evolutionary alteration or sleight of hand (“Three Worlds”). Interweaving lines that are oppositional, yet complementary come into play on occasion (“Covered Alley”), but these musicians also know how to band together and move in lockstep fashion (“Three Spheres”).
The quintet featured on this date acts a single, well-oiled unit, willing to do what’s necessary for the music: capable of touching down in Brazil without fully committing to its climate (“Day And Night”), letting things get fun, funky and fusion-eque (“Encounter”), and driving with the pedal to the metal and quickly shifting gears to open up some space (“Ascending And Descending”). Trumpeter Nick Frenay blends and balances well with saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown when his flugelhorn is in hand, but shines even brighter with his muted trumpet (“Encounter”). Drummer Corey Fonville controls the growth and development of “Waterfall,” building new scaffolding behind each performer, while bassist Zach Brown acts as stabilizing force or counterweight when required by the music.
Gilman’s music, like Escher’s art, is all about the eye of the beholder. The pianist does a fine job here, bringing Escher’s work into the realm of the audible while also creating music that can stand on its own.
Track Listing: Three Spheres; Waterfall; Three Worlds; Smaller And Smaller; Covered Alley; Encounter; Snow; Day And Night; Sky And Water; Dewdrop; Ascending And Descending.
Personnel: Joe Gilman: piano, Fender Rhodes; Nick Frenay: trumpet, flugelhorn; Chad-Lefkowitz-Brown: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Zach Brown: bass; Corey Fonville: drums.
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