““The Midnight Step Rag””

(Self Release)

Pianist and composer Lafayette Gilchrist followed up his bravura 2019 solo release, Dark Matter, with a ripping trio recording, the aptly titled, self-released NOW. His first trio recording in more than a dozen years, the double-album at times has the urgency of journalism. “Assume the Position,” Gilchrist’s theme to the HBO series The Wire, remains sadly relevant in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the rise of Black Lives Matter, as does his somewhat elegiac “Bmore Careful,” both of which reflect violence in the streets of Baltimore, where he’s lived for more than 30 years. While the underlying message of his music may be as serious as a 911 call, Gilchrist and his trio mates — bassist Herman Burnie and drummer Eric Kennedy — certainly know how to keep listeners grooving as they cycle through styles and rhythms that resound through jazz history, from ragtime to stride to blues, all the way up to the current day. Gilchrist’s “The Midnight Step Rag” displays a deep knowledge of and affection for his forebears. His agile and elegant pianism converses with Kennedy’s dancing sticks, as the drummer tattoos an exciting cadence that could’ve emanated from a Baltimore saloon a century ago.

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The Authoritative Voice in Jazz