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Album Review: Bill Carrothers' 'Joy Spring'

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Bill Carrothers Joy Spring
Courtesy of Pirouet Records
Pianist Bill Carrothers’ best known work is his series of albums that reimagine various historical periods. With Armistice: 1918 and Civil War Diaries, Carrothers set his sights on the music of World War I and the American Civil War, respectively. I Love Paris features popular hits from 1920 – 1940. With Joy Spring, Carrothers delves into the indelible repertoire of trumpeter Clifford Brown, whose recording career lasted from 1953 to 1956, when he died in a car crash at age 25.

On Joy Spring, Carrothers uses Clifford Brown’s brand of hard bop as a base, but mixes in his own broad expanse of improvisatory colors. A trio album that stars bassist Drew Gress and drummer Bill Stewart, Joy Spring accomplishes what Carrother’s best works are known for: invigoratingly capturing the spirit of the musical style at hand while maintaining a sound that neither limits itself to that style, nor strays terribly far from it.

The opening track, “Junior’s Arrival,” begins as a direct nod to the melodic and rhythmic conventions of bop, but by the end untethers itself in a way so subtle that its ability to swing can’t be doubted. “Gerkin for Perkin” and “Daahoud,” two Clifford Brown originals, follow suit. The trio executes musical devices that probably wouldn’t have been heard in the 1950s, but perhaps might be what Brown and his frequent collaborator, drummer Max Roach would play if they performing together today.

Other tracks on the album are more akin to the ubiquitous tributes of contemporary artists to past legends. Carrothers transforms “Joy Spring,” which is most recognizable for its burbling melody, into a plaintive ballad. On “Jordu” the head is played with an emphasized pulse, making it a dark and heavy march.

Whether Carrothers and his trio are coloring within the lines, or painting impressionistic strokes with harmonic freedom, the music evokes the vivacity of Clifford Brown and the period of bebop in which he excelled.

Release Date:

April 27th, 2010 on Pirouet Records

Personnel:

  • Bill Carrothers – Piano
  • Drew Gress – Bass
  • Bill Stewart – Drums

Track List:

  1. Junior’s Arrival
  2. Joy Spring
  3. Jacqui
  4. Gerkin for Perkin
  5. Delilah
  6. Gertrude’s Bounce
  7. Jordu
  8. Daahoud
  9. Time
  10. Powell’s Prances
  11. Tiny Capers
  12. I Remember Clifford
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