Title: Jazz Dance Suites
Artist: Charles McPherson
Label: Chazz Mack Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 25, 2020
Distinguished alto saxophonist, composer and bandleader Charles McPherson, known for his bebop and bluesy style and improvisational ingenuity, adds to his plethora of notable works with Jazz Dance Suites. Inspired and dedicated to his daughter Camille, a soloist in the San Diego Ballet, McPherson’s album of ballet music is a fusion of refreshing harmonies and unique lyrical melodies that wonderfully combine with inventive rhythm and syncopation, creating a bouncy and vibrant project that is a beautiful compliment to dance.
There are contributions from several incredible NYC artists on the album, including vocalist Lorraine Castellanos, pianists Jeb Patton and Randy Porter, trumpeter Terrell Stafford and bassist David Wong, each brilliantly adding their own interpretational flavors and individual improvisational voices, making the album unlike any of McPherson’s previous projects. McPherson says, “I keep looking for new melodic themes. One of the hardest things in music is to find melodic ideas that haven’t been done. It’s a much more complicated thing to be melodic and strong and original. To be insightful and new—that’s hard. It’s not easy to come up with a musical theme that resonates with the human soul. That separates the genius form the journeyman.”
Jazz Dance Suites follows a sort of concert programmatic style, as opposed to a collection of stretched out, lengthy solos typically seen from the jazz genre. There are two extended suites that encompass the majority of album. The first suite, “Song of Songs,” is inspired by the Old Testament’s book of Solomon with each of the eight movements showcasing an emotion that is parallel to the events in the original text. “Sweet Synergy Suite,” on the other hand, is full of Afro-Latin influences, marrying together dance-centric subgenres like salsa and samba into harmonic and polyphonic compositions, showcasing McPherson’s mastery over both rhythm and tone. In between these two suites is “Reflection on an Election,” a deeply emotional, blues permeated track that showcases McPherson’s remarkable alto sax skill, in addition to making a commentary, or more so a protest, on the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Charles McPherson’s Jazz Dance Suites delivers fresh, new and imaginative arrangements and compositions in an incredibly enjoyable package. Moods blend, artforms are shifted, and inspirational stories are told throughout this signature work.
Reviewed by Jared Walker