Consider the Blues is bassist and composer/arranger Will Goble's second release as a leader. This album (Origin/OA2 22132) was written in 2015 with this very line-up in mind. Goble had performed with them in 2013 and "knew immediately that I wanted to record with this quartet."
And what a quartet! Joining Goble is his "long-time partner in crime Dave Potter on drums," along with pianist extraordinaire Louis Heriveaux and the fine tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy. All of them are superb artists in their own right but, together, there is a swing and a drive that comes from chemistry and familiarity.
Goble has chosen a mix of standards, traditional pieces, and originals all arranged by the bright pen and agile creativity of William Goble. With an album title such as Consider the Blues, you already know what the feel is like.
Tabreeca Woodside adds her vocals to Another Man Done Gone, the first track on the album. The song is a traditional chain-gang piece rendered with such fluid subtlety by Woodside. Although an old piece, it has been reinterpreted in the glaring light of the horrifying and "infuriating" case of Eric Garner.
The drum choices of Potter strike a judgmental tone and Heriveaux's piano work is full of dismay. Goble plays bass like a wandering stride to nowhere and Tardy's tenor sax is more than Blues. It is anguish.
Johnson's Magic Umbrella is a, thankfully, more lighthearted piece "inspired by a recurring dream of the enigmatic pianist Austin Johnson." It is a tight groove with bouncing bass and drums behind the riveting tenor sax and striking piano. Heriveaux's solo is invigorating and has its own sense of the surreal. An original by Goble, the piece is a fun jaunt and shuffle that rolls sweetly.
Dirge Blues is by one of my favorite composers ever, the great Mary Lou Williams. It takes a great pianist to interpret a great pianist and Goble knowingly tapped Louis Heriveaux for the task. Well done.
The composition itself is "haunting and compelling," in Goble's words. The arrangement by Goble loses nothing of that. Goble's bass solo is sad but still sweet in recognition of loss and grief. It is a monologue of mourning. Heriveaux, on the other hand, odds a touch of resentment - perhaps anger - in the phrasing that is so remarkable.
George and Ira Gershwin's It Ain't Necessarily So (It Never Really Was) follows. Goble's solo bass inaugurates the piece with exquisite touch and intent. It is the first of several interludes (prelude, in this case) to the Gershwin standard.
Tardy's sax takes the lead and the quartet launches into a true-to-form approach that opens several portals for the swinging interludes that follow. On the one hand, you think that this is a great rendition of the Gershwin original and then the quartet breaks into something unexpected and unbelievably cool.
Goble and Potter smoke the rhythm section and Heriveaux enhances his growing reputation with remarkable work of his own here. A sweet ride.
Just Think for a Moment is a Goble original. The composition itself is beautifully structured with rests that create instants of reflection. The unmistakable Blues is carried brilliantly by the melodic work of tenor sax and piano but the bass and drums of Goble and Potter are the backbone of the Blues movement. Goble's solo is thought-provoking and intelligent and sets the piece alight with a smoldering flame.
Belle Isle was written for Goble's wife on the occasion of their wedding at Belle Isle State Park in Detroit. It is soulful, it is emotional, it is beautifully lyrical and Greg Tardy compels the heart to smile in agreement at what love can do to a person.
Heriveaux adds his own soulful touch and the bass and drums echo the sentiment. Goble's solo adds his own particular warmth with such smooth vibrato longing. Again, Tardy closes the piece with stunning emotion and clarity.
They Ants Go Marching One by One But They Didn't Come Back is a riotous and riveting piece. It is not a whimsical piece - don't make that mistake. It is full of stürm und drang over the plight of young soldiers made to fight old men's wars.
Is it melodic? Yes, just like war marches are melodic. It is rhythmic? Yes, just like the march songs that young warriors sing in cadence. But there is also a furious frustration not allowed to "those who are about to die." Is it protest? Actually, it is more like the poetry of the lost in a world moving too fast to notice anymore.
Hold Tight is another Goble original and is the first movement of The Kirtipur Suite. Kirtipur is the home home of the Newari people in Nepal. It was the Newari who suffered from the catastrophic earthquakes of 2015.
As fine a bassist as Goble is, his writing and arranging skills are just that fine. He knows how to set up a groove - that he and Potter create - and how to express emotion and melody in all the right ways. Tardy carries beautiful intonation in Hold Tight (and everything he touches, really) and Heriveaux's piano works the same wonders. All the while, Goble and Potter swing ever-so-slightly in the piece that imagines the calm before the earthquake.
Uncertainty is what follows the destruction of the first quake and the fear during the aftershocks. Tardy's sax moves with measured dismay in an unusual phrasing full of doubtful steps. Heriveaux moves with occasional off-notes and missed rhythms to enhance the feeling of unknowing. Goble's bass solo also carries that very feeling of unsureness and faulty steps. A fine, fine movement to the suite.
Hopefully is the follow-up adverb to rebuild and renew. Tardy again gets to breathe deeply and take control of the emotions that ravaged immediately before. Goble's bass measures a plan for reconstruction and for the future. Potter's brush work casts imagery of clearing debris and rubble as Heriveaux touches moments of relief with his fine touch on the piano. There is hope, there is even a return to joy.
Three Little Words is the sweet piece of swing from Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar. It is an upbeat, swinging Blues that allows for even optimism to find its home in the Blues. Dave Potter gets a drum solo on Three Little Words and he makes it count. Goble and Potter drive the Blues and Heriveaux and Tardy get to paint their stories over that canvas.
Will Goble's point on Consider the Blues is that any emotion can be expressed in great detail and with great emotion by the Blues. With this quartet of Tardy, Heriveaux, Potter and himself, Goble swings the Blues with joy and sorrow, happiness and outrage. The music is astonishing. The message is profound.