A Lyrical, Eclectic, Politically-Inspired Album From Gregory Tardy

by delarue

Although saxophonist Gregory Tardy‘s latest album If Time Could Stand Still – streaming at Bandcamp – was recorded well in advance of the lockdown, it’s pretty dark in places. Tardy was clearly fed up with the political situation in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election, and that resounds intensely in the record’s more acerbic moments. This is a refreshingly purposeful recording, Tardy relying on several shadowy modes beyond his usual purist blues and gospel influences.

The album’s first track, A Great Cloud of Witnesses opens with drummer Willie Jones III looping a solo Burundian folk riff that could just as easily pass for qawwali, echoed in pianist Keith Brown’s uneasy modalities as bassist Alex Claffy maintains a gently springing groove, the bandleader choosing his spots overhead.

Brown’s darkly ambered incisions are a boxer’s fist in a velvet glove, veering in and out of the blues in Absolute Truth as Tardy harmonizes with trumpeter Alex Norris and then circles skyward over a floating swing. The song title reflects Tardy’s amusement with the concept that there is no absolute truth, which itself is an absolute.

Brown’s phantasmagorical, Monkish curlicues and Tardy’s precise, moody modal lines drive the cynicism and anger of Blind Guides, a broodingly shuffling post 2016 election reflection. The group slow things down considerably for a relaxed, fondly glimmering take of Everything Happens to Me and follow that with the aptly titled I Swing Because I’m Happy, loosely based on the spiritual His Eye is on the Sparrow: Brown’s insistent, gleaming chordal attack is a highlight.

The title track begins as a warmly contented sax/piano duet before Brown shifts it into more warily pensive territory. Norris busts through the clouds over a subtly circling triplet groove in The Message in the Miracle, Brown’s triumphant chords peaking out midway through. They close, aptly, with the catchy, cheery, riff-driven It Is Finished.