Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pamela York, Lay Down This World, Hymns and Spirituals

There are times when I look at a CD jacket for the first time and say to myself, "I may not like this." That's what I did think when I first turned to pianist Pamela York's Lay Down This World: Hymns and Spirituals (Jazzful Heart Music 080602). My reaction was not because I had anything against a jazz treatment of well-known hymns and spirituals. It's just that I had been disappointed in most such efforts in the past.

Turns out, happily, I was wrong. Pamela sets out with a piano trio, adds Andre Hayward on trombone for a few tracks, and proceeds to do some very convincing work. This is fully cohesive, creative piano jazz. The arrangements are varied but all on the mark, be it a kind of Tyneresque-Evansish "A Mighty Fortress is Our God". Red Garner block chords on the reggae version of "I Know My Redeemer Liveth", and on from there.

The fact is that the directness and elementality of the songs make it possible with the right set of ears to ground a very good pianism in the displacement-substitution, re-creation of the melodic-harmonic content to make a musically lively modern jazz presentation of it all.

This is music to enjoy. Pamela York has a very nice touch and very good creative imagination.

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