Eclectic Keyboard Jazz Tunesmithing from Brad Whiteley
Multi-keyboardist Brad Whiteley got his start as a classical organist while still in his teens. Since his precocious years in that demimonde in upstate New York, he’s branched out about as far as a musician can go. He still keeps a foot in the door with a regular position as a church organist, all the while immersing himself in jazz and doing some rock sideman gigs as well. His debut album Pathless Land is out and streaming at Destiny Records’ Bandcamp page.
It opens with a jaunty, anthemic organ shuffle, Winsome Excursion, a swinging, terse, soul-infused number that’s one of ten originals. This one, as well as the nimbly bouncy, lushly crescendoing, Jimmy Smith-influenced stroll Bass Instincts, and the album’s lone cover, a joyously uninhibited roller-rink take of Come Rain or Come Shine, feature the trio of Whiteley alongside guitarist Andrew Lim and drummer Kenneth Salters.
The first of the piano numbers, Erika’s Song (a warmly cantabile, resonant yet rhythmic ballad, dedicated to Whiteley’s wife and bandmate Erika Lloyd) also features Salters in the drum chair along with bassist Daniel Foose. Whiteley puts his knack for emotionally vivid third-stream piano on display with Suite: Contemplation, anchoring Lloyd’s crystalline, deep-sky vocalese with brooding block chords and steady, eerily Satie-esque figures over Salters’ misterioso mallet and cymbal work. Likewise, Suite: Resolve mingles darkly latin-tinged phrases and uneasy chromatics over a restless drive punctuated by an elegantly insistent Foose solo and a relentless, shamanic, otherworldly spirit duel between the piano and the drums.
The purposeful yet enigmatic, modally-tinged No Regrets throws a nod in the direction of Thelonious Monk over a spring-loaded rhythm that the band eventually takes triumphantly swinging up to a lively Foose bass solo, then back into moody terrain as Salters rumbles around the perimeter. Whiteley returns to the organ for Nostalgiastic, a slinky, clave-driven homage to the soul sounds of the sixties, with a judiciously sunny Lim guitar solo at the center.
The album’s title track, a swinging song without words, sets Whiteley’s precise upper-midrange melodies and lefthand/righthand exchanges over a brisk, skintight rhythm, Foose again contributing a dancing, kinetic bass solo. The album concludes with the organ tune Brooklyn Hustle, building suspense until the band finally breaks free with a lickety-split swing and purposefully bluesy solos by Lim and Whiteley, each player choosing his spots. The eclecticism of these compositions testifies to Whiteley’s long view of music from Bach to the B3. Yet in the end, Whiteley’s translucent, melodic sound is uniquely his own. He’s got plenty of gigs coming up: a couple that look especially choice are on April 21 at 9 in a duo with Michael Eaton at Something Jazz Club, then the next night, April 22 at 9 he’s at Tomi Jazz with excellent, hard-hitting Texas saxophonist Stan Killian.
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