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Published: 2004/09/30
by Pat Buzby

The Music According to Lafayette Gilchrist – Lafayette GilchristRhythm and Poetry – Brian Mitchell with Joe Russo and Marco Benevento

Hyena Records 9322
Tetrahedron 012
Jazz and funk — a combination which many have
attempted over the past several decades, with varying
degrees of ease and success. In their debut CDs,
Lafayette Gilchrist and Brian Mitchell approach the
stylistic blend from different angles, with different
assets and liabilities, but ultimately with similarly
mixed results.
A blunt, pounding electric bass groove gets
Gilchrist’s CD off to one of the most promising starts
I’ve heard in a while. Soon drums and Gilchrist’s
piano arrive, and horns deliver an arresting
crime-show-theme melody. It’s a stomping rhythm that
this first piece, aptly titled "Assume the Position,"
delivers. The only hitch is that the same feeling
emerges from most of the subsequent tracks, with
seldom so much as a "b" section to offer contrast, and
the impact wears down quickly.
Gilchrist, a David Murray accompanist in his musical
day job, has some of the Monk spirit without copping
Monk’s licks. Like the "Straight, No Chaser" man,
Gilchrist sounds as though he doesn’t need a
well-tuned grand to express himself. Attempting a
hip-hop-influenced take on jazz with no electric
instruments aside from bass, Gilchrist assembles a
strong band: the rhythm sections slam and the horns
(two trumpets and a sax) offer precise part readings
and capable solos. Alas, no one builds an aggressive
enough statement to jump out, partly because the
cycling vamps don’t leave much potential for
A few left turns appear in the back end of The Music
"For Vince Loving" is a dark complex-chorded ballad,
sans horns, and "Coded Sources" features an
introverted bass ostinato that could have graced a
Weather Report release. As for the rest, each cut
taken individually could deliver the goods quite
nicely, but taken top to bottom it’s a bit too much of
the same.
Nothing in Brian Mitchell’s palette is as bold as
Gilchrist’s aggressive hybrid at its best, but Rhythm
& Poetry has the benefit of variety. "Sixth Whole
Soul" and "A Stories Dream" mix easygoing but
assertive organ-trio r&b with reflective interludes,
and "Dissentrance" switches from light bop to a go-go
groove similar to Gilchrist’s disc. The close of that
piece also spotlights a rare instance of Mitchell
turning his guitar’s volume knobs up — elsewhere, he
lends towards the quiet, erudite side.
Like Gilchrist, Mitchell works with strong players.
Marco Benevento’s organ generates both chords and bass
while Joe Russo’s drums swing and groove adeptly, and
Mike Dillon can slap his congas as well as spicing up
the mix nicely with vibes and tabla. However, if
Mitchell offers a greater diversity of elements, a few
of them could have been left aside. His poetry
recitations are rather less than profound, and "Lights
Over Lagos" and "Lemon Dub" offer appealing grooves
but spin their wheels too long (in the case of
"Lagos," over 11 minutes) without enough events up
It’s always tricky capturing jazz in the studio, and
it may be that not all of the magic arrived on these
particular dates. Gilchrist’s Music comes off as one
strong course awaiting a full meal, while Mitchell’s
Rhythm & Poetry is a full spread that falls just short
of sating one’s hunger. Perhaps both just need to
reshuffle the ingredients a bit before making a second
trip to the kitchen.

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