Bill Carrothers – Excelsior (2011)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 01:00:28 minutes | 518 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Artwork: Digital booklet | © Outnote Records
An intimate, unpredictable journey that will leave listeners dazzled and amazed, inspired as equally by Bach, Brahms, and Messiaen as by Monk, Tristano, Corea, and Hancock.
Pianist Bill Carrothers has titled his latest album ‘Excelsior’, ‘the sort of town Norman Rockwell or Currier or Ives would have painted’. It’s a town of 3,000 souls and Carrothers was one of them; this was his hometown. To celebrate it, or paint it in music, he went naked into the chamber – no tunes, no chord sequences, no nothing. This, then, is pure improvisation, a Minnesotan soundscape with evocative artwork to boot.
This, for a jazz pianist, is also a plangent and nostalgic album infused with classical feelings. Wild Rose Lane is like Satie, only with richer harmonies; the reflective nostalgia that pervades the disc is established from the off in this track, and so too is the MacDowell feeling. Trees has hymnal chording, Carrothers evoking memories of his youth with singing refinement; Ives without the ambiguity. Then, for Amusement Park, he takes us to another place, a frisky, off-beat hall of musical mirrors, a kind of bop boogie. The Commons is another richly voiced essay in nostalgia, before we’re back to the church for Holy, Holy, Holy in which the hymn is spiced by light, but again non-Ivesian dissonances.
Lake Minnetonka is nicely filmic; if they film more Garrison Keillor it should do nicely. Then it’s cocktail hour time in Bike Ride, in which he seems to quote What a Wonderful World. Is he using a prepared piano in Soda Fountain Happiness – something’s on the strings, jangling away, accentuating the funky grooves. Warm, hazy and bluesy – that’s Water Street – Summer whilst the Winter version has more filigree, crystalline runs reflective of the season. Excelsior Bay Fireworks has quite a pawkily voiced left hand against the slowly rolling right, whilst impressionist, Debussian harmonies infiltrate the hymnal reverie of Cemetery On The Hill. The drifting interior memories of his youth are pursued in the final track, Excelsior In a Dream.
This wistful, reflective delightful disc defies easy categorisation and is all the better for it. It’s been beautifully recorded as well.
01 – Wild Rose Lane
02 – Trees
03 – Amusement Park
04 – The Commons
05 – Holy, Holy, Holy
06 – Lake Minnetonka
07 – Bike Ride
08 – Soda Fountain Happiness
09 – Water Street – Summer
10 – Water Street – Winter
11 – Excelsior Bay Fireworks
12 – Whoville
13 – Goodbye Carousel
14 – Cemetery on the Hill
15 – Bygone Era
16 – Excelsior in a Dream
Bill Carrothers – piano
Recorded: October 2010, Studio La Buisonnes, Pernes les Fontaines.