BY Jonathan Widran: Jazz artists generally make a stark choice every time they enter a studio: create their own interpretations of beloved standards that have inspired them, or showcase their own compositions. On his third album with veteran producer Jeffrey Weber, acclaimed Bay Area pianist-composer Clifford Lamb goes delightfully rogue and emerges as a visionary by taking a novel, highly improvisational and stylistically eclectic approach to the concept of mashup.
Generally mash-ups are created by combining two previously existing recordings, but Lamb and Weber – recording live to two tracks – brew up organic tracks with crafty new titles (the closing track “La Ultima” solo piano, the others generally featuring his quartet of Buster Williams, Cindy Blackman Santana and Nicholas Payton) that artfully, soulfully and above all, imaginatively, intertwine original Lamb pieces with classics and relative obscurities that have impacted the pianist’s artistry or have been inspirational to his development.
While certainly the two versions of “Peace Requiem” – a poignant, socially charged, century spanning African American history lesson featuring onetime Raelette Alex Brown and poet/rapper Anacron – will garner the most attention, there are exquisite moments of beauty, remarkable revelations and insightful awakenings throughout that use music as a foundation to forge an optimistic path forward. The artists Lamb uses as launching points for his unique flights of fancy range from Antonio Carlos Jobim and Gershwin to Nat Adderley, McCoy Tyner and Jamie Cullum. He complements his alternately sensitive and grooving quartet with dynamic showcases for numerous guest performers, including Justin Klunk (flute, soprano sax), Laura Vall (vocals), Tariqh Akoni (guitars) and Scott Mayo (flute).