Baltimore bred pianist and jazz man Lafayette Gilchrist plays with the imaginative touch of Thelonious Monk and the courage of Miles Davis. But those are easy labels to throw in Gilchrist’s direction. He is one of the most exciting jazz-pianists around today, and it is not fair to limit him by only comparing him to those jazz greats. He attacks his music with a sense of smooth and a feeling of cool that is reminiscent of those legendary cats, but simply being able to emulate their well-worn sound isn’t what makes him special. Gilchrist fuses the classic jazz sound with a modern hip-hop feel and a taste of the go-go he grew up with in Washington D.C., giving his music an urgent, up-tempo beat; despite this, he retains enough of the direction of his jazz-forefathers to be mentioned in that same pantheon of greats.
With Soul Progressin’, Gilchrist’s fourth album, he continues to push the boundaries created by the original architects of jazz. This time around, he has wisely brought back his horn section, who were absent from 2007’s Three, which found him working in a stripped down trio setting.
With the New Volcanoes back on board, Soul Progressin’immediately leaps out at you, grabbing you in a fit of horn-driven madness with the opening title track. Gilchrist keeps things grounded, leading the charge with a bouncy piano line, that is just begging to be sampled by Dr. Dre, or Timbaland, or Pharrell Williams in their next huge hit. And therein lays the genius of Gilchrist – his ability to meld that old-school jazz with a modern feel.
Gilchrist delivers something that your jazz-loving-hipster grandfather could swing to in the basement of some smoky New York City club in the presence of Jack Kerouac and the beats, or your hip-hop loving little brother can download onto his iPod for his next snow-boarding trip. Genius.
Soul Progressin' is out now on Hyena Records.