Joe Gilman is hardly the first jazz musician to use art as inspiration for his compositions, but he took this idea to a new level by choosing a mix of familiar and less widely known works from a 70-year span in American art history. Recruiting a talented cast including saxophonists Ben Flocks and Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, bassist Zach Brown, and drummer Adam Arruda, Gilman adds a new dimension to each of the pieces. His interpretation of Norman Rockwell's iconic The Gossips is retitled "Gossip"; it opens with an insistent piano vamp that gives way to an intense post-bop blues that wails with energy. Edward Hopper's diner scene The Nighthawks should also be very familiar; Gilman's bluesy "Nighthawks" captures the loneliness of patrons in a nearly empty eatery in the late evening. For Georgia O'Keeffe's Cebolla Church Gilman initially conveys the feeling of a pastoral setting (the image looks like a rural prairie building), though he gradually works in a gospel flavor as the piece gains intensity focusing on the spirited soprano sax. "Color Arcs" (influenced by Sol LeWitt's Color Arcs in Four Directions) is a delicious, constantly shifting post-bop vehicle that challenges the listener to anticipate its path. Mark Rothko's abstract Yellow, Red, Blue naturally inspired Gilman to create something challenging: a gradually evolving Latin work where the saxophones frequently are locked in unison vamps with the composer doubling on acoustic and electric piano. Lefkowitz-Brown penned two pieces. His intense post-bop "Whaam!" (not to be confused with the 1930s warhorse "Wham!") draws inspiration from Roy Lichtenstein's famous comic book image of an American fighter destroying an enemy plane with a rocket. "Where the Wild Things Are" sprung from the saxophonist having read Maurice Sendak's once-controversial 1963 illustrated children's book of the same name; Lefkowitz-Brown captures a child's sense of adventure and playfulness in this delightful musical journey. Listeners are advised to look up images of any works with which they are not familiar to get an added appreciation for the composers' influences that resulted in these rewarding songs.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden