Eric Person – Thoughts on God – Distinction Records DR 4008, 75:12 (11/6/12) ****:
(Eric Person, alto and soprano sax and flute; Craig Bailey, alto sax and flute; Patience Higgins, tenor sax and clarinet; Sylvester “Sly” Scott, tenor sax and flute; Scott Robinson, baritone sax; James Zollar, trumpet and flugelhorn; Duane Eubanks, trumpet and flugelhorn; Curtis Hasselbring, trombone; Isrea Butler, trombone; Byron Carrott, vibraphone; Adam Klipple, piano; Adam Armstrong, bass; Shinnosuke Takahashi, drums)
Eric Person’s new CD has a spiritual theme, and is broken down into twelve “suites.” Person is a veteran saxophonist who has recorded nine discs as a leader, and this CD is his fifth for his own label, Distinction Records. It was partially funded as an online Kickstarter project. Person states that this has been a project that has been in the works since 1984, when he envisioned a theme dedicated to the Creator.
What caught my eye initially is the strong supporting cast of New York musicians (13 in all) that make up the ensemble. I find that spiritual theme jazz CDs are usually well thought out works of art, and Thoughts of God is no exception. With a mini-big-band onboard, Person has room to fully flesh out his positive message into a joyful listening experience.
“All Those with Ears Hear” opens on a pensive note with Adam Klipple’s classical intro before the drummer kicks in, and the horns punch through. You pay attention when Eric’s alto solo comes next as he wails mightily with the brass section kicking the mood up a notch. “And then there was Light” with its Genesis theme, is another high energy track, with the sax section taking center stage. Their ensemble mix is striking. “Creation Celebration” has a repetitive vamp that escalates to a crescendo before Adam Armstrong’s bass solo tempers the mood. There is a call and response feeling as sweetness is mixed with some grit.
“Soothes the Soul” is a melodic ballad that is calming, and features Patience Higgins’ clarinet solo. “Never Far from His Grace” has a sophisticated elegance that has a reverential quality heightened by Scott Robinson’s low register bari sax statements. I can see why it is Person’s favorite composition on this CD.
“Back to Center” opens with a piano and bass intro, that progresses into a heavy brass power duo of Duane Eubanks’ trumpet, followed by Scott Robinson’s baritone sax excursion from straight lyricism heading to squealing. “Joy Complete” has a unison blend that shows the compositional talents of Person. Adam Klipple’s piano drives this tune before Sylvester Scott, and Person throw down in powerful solos.
“The Blessing” has a Latin feel that made me think of McCoy Tyner in its use of polyphonics. Person shines on his soprano sax solo. This song of praise is deeply stirring. “The Lighted Way” covers many themes from an opening vibe-centered mood, leading to James Zollar’s strutting trumpet, followed by Craig Bailey’s flight of fancy on the flute.
Joy gushes forth from “Gratitude” as its majestic melody will both soothe your soul and bring a smile to your face. “Faith Forward” is the closing suite of this expression of faith to his Creator, as funk, bop, and blues coalesce as band members trade solos.
Eric Person has succeeded on multiple levels with “Thoughts of God.” Merging creative deeply-felt jazz that both inspires on a thought-provoking spiritual level, while at the same time rocking your ears with boot-shaking sass, is a nice accomplishment. Person, as musician and project coordinator, shines doing both…
TrackList: All those with Ears Hear, And then there was Light, Creation Celebration, Soothes the Soul, Never far from his Grace, Back to Center, Song of Praise, Joy Complete, The Blessing, The Lighted Way, Gratitude, Faith Forward
This is a delightful holiday collection.