After years of sideman work with Steve Coleman, Don Byron, and many others, guitarist David Gilmore makes a bold and beautiful statement with his long-awaited solo debut, Ritualism. At the core of the project is a high-octane quartet, with Gilmore, George Colligan on piano and keyboards, Brad Jones on double bass, and Rodney Holmes on drums. The presence of guest horn players David Binney, Ravi Coltrane, and Ralph Alessi boosts the excitement level even further. Gilmore brandishes a rugged tone and delivers his lines with a sharp, staccato attack and an astonishing rhythmic fluidity. His writing is highly advanced and richly varied, and while his production aesthetic stresses the live immediacy of acoustic jazz, the tracks groove with a fusion-like urgency. Bursting with odd-metered exchanges, ultra-complex unison figures, and virtuosic solo flights, the music comes across as a best-of-all-worlds synthesis of every influence Gilmore has absorbed. While hard-driving themes like "Paradigm Shift," "Event Horizon," and "Reality Check" boggle the mind and quicken the heart rate, the far mellower "Confluence," with Gilmore on acoustic guitar and Imani Uzuri on vocals, unfolds as a sort of space-age jazz waltz. (Uzuri handles the difficult melody with no problem.) There's also a crafty metric reworking of Thelonious Monk's "Off Minor" and an intriguing, hyperkinetic manifesto called "Musical Revolutions," with street-style spoken word poetics by Sharrif Simmons. As debut albums go, Ritualism is uncommonly focused, achieving an ideal balance of technical sophistication and emotional depth.
AllMusic Review by David R. Adler