Adam Armstrong, Adam Klipple, African American, Craig Bailey, Curtis Hasslebring, Distinction Records, Eric Person, Flute, Harry Carney, Isrea Butler, James Zollar, Jazz Promo Services, Kickstarter, Patience Higgins, Saxophonist, Scott Robinson, Shinnosuke Takahashi
A landmark recording, Thoughts on God, is the most recent release from prolific saxophonist and composer Eric Person. His ninth disc as a leader, the fifth on his own Distinction Records label and first funded through the Kickstarter program, an on-line funding platform for creative projects. Having fronted several different units including Meta-Four and Metamorphosis, as well as the cooperative TrioKinesis the veteran horn man is heard here leading his own jazz orchestra for the very first time. Person is an alumnus of the forward looking big bands of McCoy Tyner, David Murray and John Hicks, and is best known for his wide-ranging sideman work with Dave Holland, Chico Hamilton, and World Saxophone Quartet. On Thoughts on God, Person exhibits the fruits of lessons learned during his quarter of a century of diversified experience. The pieces composed for this twelve part suite are inspired by his powerful abiding faith in the positive force of the Creator.
The music here, performed by a thirteen piece ensemble featuring some of New York City’s most accomplished players, finds its inspiration in Person’s own spiritual nature. “When I wrote this music I had certain ideas in my mind and certain thoughts and feelings that I wanted to have come through the music,” Person proclaims. “The thing that separates this project from my other music is that when I sat down to write this music I tried to visualize all the great things, the blessings that we have here on Earth. So I tried to think positive thoughts, to think about the Creator, about all the wonderful things that he’s given us. I feel that this positivity came through the music. It came through in my writing and it also came through the performance in the recording studio.”
The suite’s first movement, All Those With Ears Hear, takes its title from the Bible’s book of Revelations. Person says, “The melody has the sound of a proclamation.” The piece begins with a prayerful piano prelude written by Person, around which Adam Klipple improvises. Drummer Shinnosuke Takahashi’s grooving back beat brings in the band with the sax section playing the melody in distinctive harmony with the brass engaging the horns in a call and response dialogue. Person’s impassioned soulful alto solo heats things up to a fever pitch, after which the horns return to reiterate the melody, this time in a series of horn exchanges that highlight the composer’s authoritative arranging.
And Then There Was Light, with its Genesis inspired title, begins with a driving vamp that kicks the song into high gear. This is a burner. The song features the saxophone section to great affect in its unison execution of the powerful melody and its serpentine soli section at the end of the song, while the composer once again demonstrates his strength as a soloist with his own vigorous statement.
Person’s individuality as a composer begins to really come to the fore on his Creation Celebration, a point of departure that begins with a somewhat portentous saxophone sequence played in 5/4 meter. Prior to the joyous repetition that gives it the celebratory mood from which it takes its title, the composer notes, “This song swings hard and builds with each section. It conveys the sound of unbridled joy and celebration.”
Soothes The Soul is a ballad that starts with a dramatic intro. It features a beautiful pensive melody that’s first stated by bassist Adam Armstrong. The flutes and trumpets enter playing this, and a secondary melody. It’s a delightful dialog in movement and harmony. Person says, “I intended for every chorus of the melody to build smoothly.” And build it does, up to a beautiful clarinet solo by Patience Higgins. The song ends with a repeated coda section that swings us home.
Never Far From His Grace, Person confesses, “This is probably my favorite song of the whole suite.” The song starts off with the saxophone section warmly stating the harmonized melody. There’s an Ellingtonian elegance in Person’s writing here, as well as an intelligence reflected in the multiple building points, each climactic one saying something different, giving it a narrative like dramatis. Two excellent solo performances are presented here with Scott Robinson’s solo statement it reminds us of how Harry Carney might play with a strong, upfront baritone sax statement.” Patience Higgins plays a warm understated solo.
Back To Center begins with the horns and rhythm section kicking off the song loud and strong. The piano then states by itself a new harmonic direction with deep moving chords that set a serious tone. The melody is stated by the saxophone section over a Afro 6/8 groove. The wide intervallic melody is one of the most distinctive of the suite, leads the band into the solos by Duane Eubanks on trumpet whose solo hearkens to the spirit of Lee Morgan. Scott Robinson’s solo slowly builds from soft lyricism to a squealing quiet intensity. Person finishes the solo sequence with measured passion before easing back into the sax section to end the song majestically.
Bryan Carrott’s vibes are featured on Song of Praise. With its bright tempo and sprite melody this song sets itself apart from the rest of the songs in the suite. After a magnificent solo by Carrott, the song opens up into a dynamic section of the song that features some dynamic polyphonic writing that leads to a brilliant climax. .
Joy Complete is a fast number that features a unison melody in the saxophones that emulates a singing male choir. There’s three solo features here; Adam Klipple’s fleet piano and Sylvester Scott’s muscular tenor saxophone lead off. Person’s solo introduces a fresh accompaniment section which builds with a slow intriguing intensity. By the time the horns come in to cushion Person’s landing, he’s still trying to get all of his preaching in. He considers this his favorite solo of his on the album.
Person’s full bodied soprano sax is featured on The Blessing. Beginning with a soft percolating Latin vamp, the song features a serene melody that’s supported by full bodied chords in the brass. After Person’s solo the music continues to evolve by the use of some complex polyphonic writing in the second part of the song that gets all the horns involved. Person states, “On this song I tried to convey a feeling of serenity in the melody, and I carried that feeling over into my solo. I sought to project a warm, unrushed and uncomplicated statement that’s meant to be a vision in sound.”
The Lighted Way starts off with the vibraphone playing an attractive bell-like chord sequence that leads into Sylvester Scott’s poignant statement of the melody. This composition features classically inspired lines that are played in unison by Person’s soprano, Craig Bailey’s flute and Adam Armstrong’s bass. “This song stands on its own; matter of fact no song on this set sounds like any other song, which was my intention, each song truly makes its own statement.” Person says proudly From the chamber section the band transitions to the solo section that features two dynamic solos played by trumpeter James Zollar and flutist Craig Bailey.
With it’s 6/4 time signature Gratitude. is drenched in continuous movement and harmony. The soprano saxophone led melody has a sound that is supported by all the horns. The bright major tonality inspires both soloists greatly. It features Adam Klipple’s piano and Person’s soprano.
The finale, Faith Forward features an emphatic funky groove. Person says, “This song was pure fun to play. In my solo solo I’m working some bop, some blues and I took it up and out with a little avant gard frenzy at the end.” Afterward there’s an engaging series of trades that features the trombonists Curtis Hasslebring and Isrea Butler along with the saxophones. Everyone gets a chance to shine. The song ends with a brilliant drum solo by Shinnosuke Takahashi.
Person says of the date’s mission, “Thoughts Of God is my humble gift to the Creator, but it’s also a gift to the world. My belief is that by making music of creativity and power I’m doing my part in helping make this world a better place to live.”
::: SOURCE: Jazz Promo Services :::