Billy Childs – The Winds of Change – Mack Avenue

by | Apr 8, 2023 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Billy Childs, a musical phenomenon…

Billy Childs – The Winds of Change – Mack Avenue #MAC 1200 – 52:30 – ****1/2

(Billy Childs – piano; Ambrose Akinmusire – trumpet; Scott Colley – bass; Brian Blade – drums)

Billy Childs has been a musical prodigy, and multi-genre artist, from the time he was a teenager. Born in 1957, he attended USC, where he received a degree in musical composition. He was Freddie Hubbard’s pianist from 1978-1984, before branching out on his own. As a leader, Childs has recorded for several labels, beginning with Windham Hill. 

Billy has received numerous awards and accolades throughout his career, including several Grammy awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and many classical music commissions, especially for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

What makes Childs so multi-dimensional is that his talents encompass blending jazz, classical, pop, and soul. His arranging talents rival his work as a composer. (He won a Grammy in 2000 for his arrangements for Dianne Reeves’ tribute CD to Sarah Vaughan). 

Billy is also noted for his chamber jazz groups merging harp, woodwinds, and string quartets.

For his third release for the Mack Avenue label, Childs returns to post bop idioms, merging five originals and two covers (Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence,” and Kenny Barron’s “The Black Angel”). Billy has assembled a “dream team” quartet of trumpeter, Ambrose Akinmusire, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer, Brian Blade. Each has led groups of their own, and form a simpatico communication with their esteemed leader.

They open with “The Great Western Loop,” hard charging right out of the box. There is no sitting back from sidemen here, all are fully engaged. Brian Blade drives the intensity, inspired by Billy’s assertive piano lines. Ambrose has a Freddie Hubbard brashness on his choruses. He clearly takes control mid tune, before Blade’s solo. 

The title track is next. It’s moody, “film noirish,” and just needs a rainy night, and a hard boiled detective to be film worthy. Child’s piano choruses are crystalline, with a debonair sophistication, seemingly effortless. Akinmusire adds an inquisitive touch, darting in and out. “The End of Innocence” starts lyrical, with Scott Colley having the opportunity to be fully felt with a “woody” solo around midway on the track. Ambrose’s trumpet slurs and growls add ambiance. 

“The Master of the Game” has a classical chamber  jazz feel at its beginning. It later turns into a feature for piano and trumpet, and Akinmusire has a blistering solo edging into avant territory. “Crystal Silence” is a ballad that shows the mellow side of Ambrose. Its beautiful theme  would fit in well on a movie soundtrack. Scott Colley’s bass solo is miked so well that you feel the pluck of the strings.

The closer, “I Thought I Knew”  could be a movie “love” theme. It is wistful, bringing on a dreamy image of a lost love, wondering what went wrong in the relationship…

Fans from most any period of Billy Childs’ career will find much to like on this marvelous, intriguing release. He continues to inspire, no matter which musical genre he explores…

—Jeff Krow

Billy Childs – Winds of Change

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

More Information through Mack Avenue

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Album Cover for Billy Childs Winds of Change

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