Religion is a very odd thing. As an atheist who once was Catholic, choirboy, altar boy, cathecist baptized and confirmed, and all the billion and one distractions religion places on individuals to keep them well away from true spirituality, and as someone who saw through all that nonsense at the tender age of 14, I often marvel that adults pay attention to such childishness for more than a few seconds. Ah, but this is Earth, and so it goes. The market's surfeited with religion in a country whose founders pretty much hated it with all their hearts; thus one wonders whether Darwin was wrong. Does evolution indeed occur? Perhaps not, even despite the fact we're no longer in the cave fighting the sabre tooth tiger.
I offer this negativity as a proviso to the positive review to follow. As a critic, I'm expected to comment on everything about a release, yet I don't think religionists have quite gotten hip to the fact that a hell of a lot of crits are atheists or at least non-religious. I think they expect us to ignore the raison d'etre for their music if said raison is religion. That, anyway, has been my experience many many times. Religionists wish to force their so-called spirituality on the world but react with horror should any utter a syllable not idolatrous of matching delusions. The reactions I've sometimes received when critiquing what artists and their labels wish me to critique has been nothing sort of astonishing, yet I say this as much of Pharoah Sanders as I would of Joe Schmuckala, in case you're wondering.
The long and the short of it is, in case anyone's wondering, that religion is hypocrisy unvarnished. When a religious CD is issued, this much should be known, and if that's bothersome, you're best off not reading my work when it comes to the matter. I'm as ferocious and adamant in this respect as any religionist on Earth is about his or her shamanry and will happily debate anyone anytime on the subject…and have…usually to the effect of their fleeing the conversation. Christianity, the outfall of Judaism, has been "prophesying" (vending) the End of Times, Apocalypse, demons and devils, wars and ravage, madness and brimstone, and no end of hideous nonsense, predicting it to occur every other hour for well over 2,000 years now. I hate to inform 'em, but 1) that wasn't the Christ's message, and 2) all of what they rant about has come and gone many times over. It's nothing new. The fantastical Satan isn't the problem. We are. Doncha think it's time we finally 'fessed up to that and grew the hell up?
That, ladies and gentlemen, is my sermon. The collection plate will be passed as I move on to the business at hand.
Eric Person's Thoughts on God is instrumental, big-bandy (13 players), intelligent, creative music with a generous infusion of non-heterodoxical jazz that understands its roots. One need only purvey Creation Celebration, which starts out Mingus-esque then goes Goodman before turning to Mancini, to understand this. Person wields alto and soprano saxes and a flute, doing so more than credibly. His is a fine and well-measured hand brimming over with creativity and refinement. More, the gent's arrangements are deeply informed by myriad wellsprings and shift sometimes with lightning speed—not in tempo, though that can happen too, but in inflectional nuance and metaphorical invention.
Should the reader be a fan of the progressive big band cats—Gil Evans, Don Ellis, Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, etc.—there's plenty to revel in as well as attentions to trad sensibilities. One of many standouts most intriguing to me, though, is Person's use of flat tepidness a la David Matthews as a contrastive element. Almost shocking, actually, but brilliant in its subtleties through brevity and sporadic placement, occupying a borderland between incidentalism and literary technique. But let me skip back to Creation Celebration in particular, as it's Alice in Wonderland-ish but also literally a wonderland per se, adventurous and sublime in many respects. As excellent as the rest of the CD is, this one cut is riveting. It won't melt your ears or blow the back of your head off, but its engagement with the thinking process (a salient trait of Person's talent) is rather surprising. I love intelligent music, but Creation and Thoughts represent a wrinkle so fresh that I immediately thought back to Anthony Davis' killer The Ghost Factory, which I've held dear for 24 years now.
Don't mistake me: the two discs are VERY different in almost every way but the degree of abstract and interpolative thinking are precisely the same, one (Davis') residing in neoclassicalism, the other (Person's) melding jazz's appurtenances from the 50s forward, honoring the past while anticipating the future by dwelling in the moment with neurons and synapses firing at full throttle, a rare form of being in the pocket consciously. This, however, doesn't mean you're going to need a degree to listen to his work, quite the contrary, though I can pretty much guarantee you'll come away with an IQ increase, a renewed respect for this mode of composition and playing, and a generally happier disposition…even if you're Mr. Spock ("Interesting, Jim, this music provokes in me a yearning to re-visit Vulcan and frolic in the moonlight."). There are delights aplenty in this CD…but whether or not Thoughts on God will affect whatever sentiments you may have towards the spurious Prime Mover Unmoved is up to you. I'm just sayin'.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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