A captivating live performer, Lafayette Gilchrist has once again translated his distinctive blend of drama, brooding force, and hard-hitting beats into a successful, high-energy, engaging album. The music on Towards the Shining Path, the pianist's ambitious followup to his acclaimed debut album, The Music According to Lafayette Gilchrist
, moves like a boxer: methodical, rocking steadily in its deep grooves, yet ready to burst into unpredictable explosions of controlled power and precisely orchestrated fury.
Towards the Shining Path is once again exclusively comprised of original material, composed and arranged by Gilchrist, whose compositional style has show remarkable development in a short span of time. Whereas Gilchrist’s previous compositions followed essentially linear or parabolic developmental paths, his new compositions contain multiple strands of competing lines, injecting a new level of complexity and depth into the sweeping narrative feel of his work. Moreover, where the previous album depended on the lock-step integration of his band, Gilchrist has opened new space for his talented horn section to express individual voices, styles, and tonal textures, though never at the expense of the carefully constructed, tightly contained whole.
Sweeping tunes like ”New Jack” and the album highlight “Bubbles on Mars” cruise forward like a Cadillac coup, engine purring, dominating by sheer weight and a peculiar presence equal parts ominous and opulent, while the extended piece “Thorn Bush” explores subtler emotional themes and adds a broader range of color to Gilchrist’s milieu.
Other album standouts include the honky tonk-tinged “No Locomotion Blues,” the tongue-in-cheek “Elephant Dance,” and “The Juggler’s Dream,” a sprawling, carnivalesque piece which spirals and weaves through an imaginative, multi-themed landscape.
Towards the Shining Path reveals Gilchrist to be a composer and player to be reckoned with. This is music on the edge, a soundtrack of the now.