Is it possible to truly love someone you have never met?
Let's face it. George Lewis is a nobody in music. His name isn't a big name in jazz circles. Or jazz trombone circles. Or even free jazz/avant-garde trombone circles (sorry George, Grachan Moncur III has you beat there). That doesn't stop him from making a truly memorable jazz album. This album is a musical dichotomy showing: Lewis v.s. Bird; present v.s. past; adventurous v.s. accepted; and electronic v.s. acoustic.
By the nature of the title and title track, most people would see this album as a tribute album, but it's actually so much more. "Blues", the first track, isn't Parker's in any way, it is Lewis' track. It's an advanced piece based around his explorations of space and seemingly using instruments as human voices. "Homage To Charles Parker" is truly a Parker piece. The band takes the advancements that Parker made and explores within them. These two pieces (oddly enough both are exactly 18 minutes long) stack up together to show the modern advancements in music ("Blues") and the past advancements in music ("Homage To Charles Parker"). Both were equally challenging and rejected during their time, however Parker's advancements have become jazz norm.
- This song is very challenging much in the vein of free jazz verging on free improvisation. If you make sense of the seemingly abstract, what you'll find is a rather lush piece with George Lewis (tenor trombone) showcasing why he is the main focus. This track explores space, pace, and volume. Many of the actual licks the musicians play aren't very hard (think a single note every couple minutes on the piano). The track starts off with the bass clarinet that sounds straight out of a Mingus tune. The bass clarinet is very vocal in his approach, mimicking patterns more of common speach than standard melody. The piano is (seemingly) the punctuation, giving the extra emphasis on he last phrase. This phase ends around the 7 minute mark as the idea of chaos and the abstract ensue. Much as in a club atmosphere, there is some discernable background noise (synth) but it is combined into something much more hectic with the mess of foreground noise. Eleven minutes in there is an interaction between the musicians of holding notes, using vibrato, playing with volume, and interweaving it all to create something straight out of a '70s Sci-Fi flick. And this continues until the end ... leaving us with silence. The very thing we started with.
Homage To Charles Parker
- This track is Lewis' tribute to the spirit and accomplishments of Charlie Parker. (Alongside the album art) I believe this is his way of expressing musical love. This piece is a bunch of individual solos based around ideas of the early bop movement. We figure it is more of the same as we start off with a rather deep and spacious effect with heavy vibrato as if something huge was coming in the distance (comes complete with some seemingly windy effects). Next comes a sound that feels like a higher pitched version of what was heard before. Rusted metal wind chimes? Banging on steel? Still with a very ethereal and mysterious feel to it. Nearly 8 minutes of this mysterious, but highly enticing build up comes a more memorable sound. The alto saxophone in it's most relaxed and controlled state. Then some piano with Ahmad Jamal's approach, the deep and beautiful sound with a Stravinsky harmonic approach. Again, a beautiful job playing with different audible levels. 12 minutes in, the piano takes over as the lead instrument. Only being backed by an electronic program, Anthony Davis continues on with his Ahmad Jamal spliced with Stravinsky approach. Paying equal attention to both the highs and lows making them two separate yet interacting voices, Davis performs my favorite solo of this album. 15 minutes in George Lewis takes over on his trombone. Again, the ideas of lush and relaxed are the main ingredients to his solo. Very emotive solo to take us to the close, a sing note that fades out almost feeling perfectly content that it expressed everything it needed to. It's only right that Lewis got to end this album.
This album takes a lot of patience, but it is well worth it. The second track is much friendlier to the casual jazz fan, and honestly it is a great piece for anyone who remotely likes music. I give this album a 5.