This is jazz that manages to sound contemporary, accessible, and funky enough to have a broad appeal.
When Light Flashes Help is on the Way
Twenty Ten Music
9 tracks 50:16
Charlie Peacock’s new project, When Light Flashes Help Is on the Way, continues the artist’s explorations in instrumental jazz and should please fans of his other fine albums in the genre: Love Press Ex-Curio, Arc of the Circle, and his solo piano experiment, Lemonade. Those familiar with Peacock’s body of work will realize that there were flashes of jazz even in his earliest recordings. Listen to the trumpet on “Lie Down in the Grass,” or the vibe on “Big Man’s Hat” and it’s obvious that a larger commitment to some jazz recordings was inevitable.
Stellar sax and woodwinds player Jeff Coffin and bassist extraordinaire Felix Pastorius have become the usual suspects on Charlie’s jazz projects and they’re much in evidence on When Light Flashes Help Is On The Way. The ubiquitous Jerry McPherson is also on-board on electric guitar, along with Hilmar Jensson on acoustic as well as electric. On drums we have Ben Perowsky, who does a powerhouse job throughout. Jeff Taylor plays accordion, Tony Miracle is credited with laptop, Matthew White plays some tasty trumpet, and Andy Leftwich plays mandolin and fiddle. Additional musicians are Scott Mulvahill and Matt Wigton on upright bass, and Jordan Perison on drums. Of course, Charlie is the chief architect behind it all, playing Rhodes electric piano, Ace Tone organ and piano as well as writing or co-writing most of the songs (“Still Water” is by Daniel Lanois and “Masters of War” is by Bob Dylan), and producing the album.
When Light Flashes Help Is on the Way starts off with the primal rhythms of “Wendell Berry in the Fields at Night.” Coffin on sax and Pastorius playing a bass line that sounds like it has a life-force of its own, introduce the earthy melody riding on top of a soulful groove. Some deliciously nasty guitar chords spice up “Blue Part Two,” which features lots of woodwinds and some very tasty flute work. Charlie’s Rhodes lends a fascinating texture and ambiance to the piece. Chords of woodwinds punctuate the melody before the abrupt finish.
The whole ensemble is percolating nicely on “Automat, which has some nice percussive keyboard from Charlie and a first good hearing of Leftwich’s fiddle. As things are coming to a fevered pitch a prominent chord from Peacock seems to call the band to attention as the song then plays out. “Still Water” is the calm after the storm – a melodic, jazzy ballad with a bed of keys playing under sax, fiddle, sweet bass lines and brushed drums.
Perhaps the most ambitious track here is “Samuel and the Iceland Indigo,” co-written by Peacock and Jensson. There’s more than a little similarity to some of Frank Zappa’s orchestral pieces, with interesting timing, very textured keys, and a good use of dissonance, especially from the guitar.
One of Peacock’s more articulate and melodic piano solos comes on “The Intimate Lonely,” a moody piece that also features some peppery trumpet by Matthew White. Dylan’s “Masters of War” is carried melodically by Coffin on sax while the fiddle provides nice improvised counterpoints. Listen for the very effective guitar passage in this one…
“Gift Economy closes the album with high energy with a lively, playful melody is doubled by fiddle and guitar (or mandolin?). Tasty drums, perky keyboard and fun interplay by all musicians involved leave a very good last moment in your ears by the time we get to the outro, featuring bass and Rhodes introducing a fast riff racing to the end.
Peacock allows himself to become part of the whole musical unit instead of being the star of the show – a mark of not only confidence but of true professionalism. This is jazz that manages to sound contemporary, accessible, and funky enough to have a broad appeal.
Charlie Peacock’s jazz projects are always a pleasure, and When Light Flashes Help is on the Way is no exception. Well worth waiting for – this musical help arrives just in time.
4 ½ Tocks
- Bert Saraco
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