1. The Calling
2. Triangle, Circle, Square
3. Alley Cat
4. Gingerbread Boy
5. Vamp For Peace
6. Two Years of the Lotus Blossom
8. Song For Katie
10. Winter Brings
Keith Pray - alto sax
Chuck D’Aloia - guitar
Peter Tomlinson - piano
Lou Pappas - bass
Jeff Siegel - drums
click here for audio samples or to purchase this CD
click here to learn more about Keith Pray
by Tom Pierce
Keith Pray’s 5h CD as a leader is remarkable and has much to capture & hold one’s attention. It includes a few surprises, even for those familiar with his previous outstanding live & recorded work.
He clearly solves the serious player’s most fundamental recording challenge: effectively utilizing the time-honored strengths & positive language of various jazz legends, while still projecting a vigorously personal enough vision & variety to keep the music distinctive and fresh.
His success is obviously partly due to wisely selecting enormously experienced musicians, who like himself have absorbed collectively the powerfully creative influences of performing with jazz icons. Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, Nick Brignola, Ray Vega, Michael Brecker, Eddie Gomez, Ron Carter, Kenny Burrell, Dave Douglas and Lee Shaw are just a few of these – not to mention the countless others they’ve absorbed..
This CD demonstrates Pray’s thorough knowledge of Jazz history, by including two classic compositions long revered by musicians, John Coltrane’s 1961 “Africa” and Jimmy Heath’s 1964 “Gingerbread Boy”. As the title implies, he varies the CD’s mood by mixing in multiple sub-genres like Hard Bop, Modal, Fusion, Blues, Funk and Avante Garde – but all still very accessible. His arrangements create solid, full ensemble voicings.
The exciting, swinging numbers such as the two aforementioned standards and the hard-charging title track are balanced by moving & imaginative slower tunes. He composed the thoughtfully impressionistic “Two Years of the Lotus Blossom” for his second wedding anniversary; while the very aptly titled “Vamp for Peace” projects a reflective, yearning quality. His “Song for Katie” written 10 years ago for his talented saxophonist/fashion designer wife exudes the kind of gentle, contented feeling one expects from a person very appreciative of a happy family life.
Chuck D’Aloia is a super guitarist long admired for his heated, blues-based but adventurous playing with his own and many other bands, including Nick Brignola & Hal Miller. His rich tone blends extremely well with Pray’s deep, near-tenor timbre on the alto to create a thicker sound than one would expect where there’s only one horn. And his composition, the darkly intriguing “Alley Cat” is the most “outside” tune on the CD.
Pianist Peter Tomlinson’s playing is bright and captivating throughout the recording, whether soloing or comping. It reflects the mature, complex and profound playing of some of his mentors like Barry Harris and Armen Donelian, both of whose playing I’ve found engrossing. He has an especially fascinating solo on the prancing “Triangle, Circle, Square” that invokes a vision of gleeful youngsters in a pool on a sunny day.
Lou Pappas on bass consistently provides rock-like support & flow - no easy task given that the 10 tunes are virtually all done in subtly different tempos rather than simple, straight-ahead, standard slow or fast rhythms.
I have long admired Jeff Siegel’s highly musical drumming, leading his own fine quartet or dynamically supporting the Lee Shaw trio. He uses the entire drum kit to provide sophisticated colors & accents, and his crisp, clean cymbal work is delightful to the ears.
The CD’s overall uplifting intensity & imagination is highly recommended.
Tom Pierce has had a burning passion for Jazz for over 50 years, initiated and fueled by seeing live in New York City, starting in the early 1960's, virtually every major artist still performing. He's been very happily living in Guilderland since 2001, as an active retiree sharing his love of music by writing online reviews for a number of web sites, preparing DVD presentations to various groups, co-Hosting Radio programs showcasing his favorite artists and busily supporting A Place for Jazz in a variety of ways.