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Baltimore Parade: Lafayette Gilchrist and the New Volcanoes at the Windup Space, July 11

July 13, 2010

Lafayette Gilchrist continues to tour the world as pianist for the David Murray Quartet and as co-leader of a quartet with Chicago drummer Hamid Drake, Hungarian bassist Matyas Szandai, and Hungarian saxophonist Mihaly Dresch (the latter group releases its debut album this fall). But Gilchrist still lives in Baltimore, and this past Sunday he unveiled a new version of his hometown band and a new suite of his hometown music.

Gilchrist’s octet, the New Volcanoes, has lost trumpeter Freddie Dunn and alto saxophonist Gabriel Ware, and the leader has replaced them with conga drummer Kevin Pinder and a third tenor saxophonist, Tiffany DeFoe. Trumpeter Mike Cerri was unavailable on Sunday, so the octet was down to a septet: three tenors and the four-man rhythm section.

Gilchrist began the evening with one of his trademark piano figures, splitting the difference between Monk and funk, displacing notes within a groove. When Pinder added a rippling conga pattern, he inevitably tugged things in an Afro-Cuban direction. Trap drummer Nate Reynolds and electric bassist Anthony “Blue” Jenkins added a wiggly strut to the rhythm, explaining Gilchrist’s title for his new four-part suite: Baltimore Parade.

The three tenor saxophonists (DeFoe, John Dierker, and Greg Thompkins) were bunched front and center as if they were ready to march down the right lane of Martin Luther King Boulevard for King’s Birthday Parade. They played punchy little riffs that didn’t duplicate the groove (as a boring fusion band would) but instead counterpointed it. They also kept changing the inner voicings of their chords so they were never played quite the same way twice. Gilchrist’s own solos were similar: thickened chords that kept breaking down and reassembling Monk-like without ever losing the pulse of a marching band on Baltimore’s West Side.

“Unscripted,” the suite’s first movement, boasted a midtempo Latin tinge and a buttery Thompkins solo, while the second, “Spontaneous Combustion,” offered a jittery, push-and-pull groove and lots of flatted notes. Gilchrist played a piano segue into the third movement, incongruously titled “Phase Four,” a fast number highlighted by Dierker’s squealing solo and Gilchrist’s broken chords. The suite ended with “Spotlight,” a slow, sauntering blues. Taken as a whole, the suite is a welcome sign that Gilchrist’s writing has entered a new, ambitious period.

Before the show started, the musicians joined the 60th birthday celebration for Doc Manning, who emcees the jazz shows at An Die Musik and who hosts the In the Tradition program on WEAA-FM.

Both Dierker and DeFoe will be part of the first annual New Atlantis Festival at the Windup Space on July 25.

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