Jazz CD Reviews

Bill Carrothers – Joy Spring – Pirouet

On Joy Spring, pianist Bill Carrothers eloquently showcases Clifford Brown’s musical legacy.

Published on June 2, 2010

Bill Carrothers – Joy Spring – Pirouet

Bill Carrothers – Joy Spring – Pirouet PIT3046, 67:00 ****1/2:

(Bill Carrothers – piano; Drew Gress – bass; Bill Stewart – drums)

With previous projects such as Armistice: 1918 (a collection of World War I tunes), The Blues & The Greys (which concentrated on Civil War subject matter) and I Love Paris (which focused on pop hits from between the world wars), pianist Bill Carrothers has become recognized for championing historically important music. In the process Carrothers has also gotten a well-deserved reputation for being a considerably noteworthy interpreter of other artists’ material.

Carrothers’ latest outing, Joy Spring, examines not any specific time period but rather one person: bop trumpeter and legend Clifford Brown. On 12 compositions either written by or associated with Brown, Carrothers and his trio – bassist Drew Gress and drummer Bill Stewart – create a touching and masterful tribute that balances ballads with breakneck numbers.

Jazz fans can only speculate what Brown might have accomplished before his tragic death at age 25 in 1956. But during his brief life, Brown amassed several recordings and penned definitive jazz classics, so there is much to recommend on Joy Spring.

Carrothers, Gress and Stewart start with “Junior’s Arrival,” which commences with a respectful opening but then widens into a lively turn. By the second verse the trio diverges into another direction as Carrothers executes expansive chords and unconventional additions, Gress renders a few rhythmic alternates and Stewart supplies some unexpected diversions on his drum kit. “Gerkin for Perkin” follows a similarly upbeat mannerism. Here, Stewart embarks on sharp shifts of tempo and rhythm, inviting his partners to keep up and of course they do: Carrothers with accelerated keyboard runs and Gress with his equally expeditious bass. The often-recorded “Daahoud” also has a celebratory inclination with just a hint of duskiness. Carrothers contributes resolute passages, expanded voicings and provocative melodic improvisation. Gress’s midpoint solo furnishes corresponding coloring and Stewart’s drum rolls and percussive elements impart that little extra special touch.

The slower pieces are proportionately prosperous. Carrothers transforms the title track into a solo piano excursion that has a wistful flavor that emphasizes a midnight pulse. Stewart’s ethereal brush work and Carrothers’ barely audible vocal sounds add to the melancholy tableau. The trio’s coalesced interaction is brought to fruition on a lovely interpretation of Victor Young’s “Delilah” that has a light Latin seasoning. Listening to the way Stewart, Gress and Carrothers communicate is breathtaking and their kinship is matched on the threesome’s take of Richie Powell’s late night lament, “Time.” If ever there was a composition which best fits last call, this is the one. The album ends with a somber treatment of Benny Golson’s “I Remember Clifford.” Carrothers’ yearning memorial to Clifford Brown is a resplendent inspiration to close out the program.

Jason Seizer does a typically impeccable job at the soundboard. The recording has a crisp freshness that accents each instrument and musician. Seizer puts subtle cymbals up where they belong, places the lowest bass and piano notes right where they can be appreciated and continually helps underscore the emotional content.

1. Junior’s Arrival
2. Joy Spring
3. Jacqui
4. Gerkin for Perkin
5. Delilah
6. Gertrude’s Bounce
7. Jordu
8. Daahoud
9. Time
10. Powell’s Prances
11. Tiny Capers
12. I Remember Clifford

— Doug Simpson

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