Saxophonist Gary Thomas' records have been nothing if not provocative. This set, a collection of jazz and pop standards radically reharmonized and annotated rhythmically, is no exception. Thomas assembles a stellar cast on this outing, including guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Tim Murphy, alternating bassists Anthony Cox and Ed Howard, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and percussionist Steve Moss. Thomas' methodology is one of tearing everything out but the tune's original melody and restructuring it from inside. As such, his own reed and woodwind playing and Metheny's guitar in the front line are perfect foils for one another. Metheny leaves his euphoria-driven approach in the wings this time and becomes an impressionist, offering knotty counterpoint on "The Best Thing for You" as Carrington double- and triple-times the band, all the while pushing the syncopation into ever more angular directions. The ripping intro to "Angel Eyes" sounds like an outtake from Interstellar Space. When the band kicks it all the way in, it's a hard bop sprint with a killer bass solo by Cox. The beautiful acoustic guitar intro to "Lush Life" whispers with Thomas' tenor, as the saxophonist offers up one of his most breathtaking and profoundly lyrical performances ever put on tape. His flute playing on Horace Silver's "Peace," along with the rhythmic invention put forth by Moss in the intro, throws the listener when the beat comes kicking back Latin and Thomas moves into high gear. Metheny's comping on this cut, with its distortion, adds depth and edginess to the rhythm section. The set ends with a radically reworked "You Don't Know What Love Is," where the harmonics of the tune get turned inside out and the rhythmic accents shift away form the backbeat time and time again. Murphy's piano is all that holds the tune in place as Thomas and Metheny mutate and re-form it in their own image. This is Thomas' best moment on record thus far, and a casebook example of reinterpreting the jazz genre.
Till We Have Faces Review
by Thom Jurek