Pianist/composer Darrell Grant's Truth and Reconciliation might be categorized as "music to make the world a better place." A strong case could be made that all music -- indeed, all art -- has that purpose. Grant's aspirations in that direction here are more on-the-sleeve than you find on most musical endeavors. The results on the project are remarkable for their celebratory beauty and unadorned artistic truth.
The core of the music-making is the piano trio of Grant teamed with drummer Brian Blade and bassist John Patitucci. They craft a gorgeously organic sound on the trio tunes; and the same holds true for each of the guest spots -- saxophonist Steve Wilson's plaintiff tone on "Ubuntu," vibraphonist Joe Locke's seamless integration on the American Songbook jewel, "The Way You Look Tonight," a lovely look at the tune that serves as a highlight among highlights.
The opening cut, "Reconciliation," a Grant composition, features very busy sideman, guitarist Bill Frisell. One of the strengths of this set is Grant's arrangements of the guest spots, integrating the various sounds perfectly with the trio. Rather than setting Frisell in front of the rhythm team, it's four musicians locked into the music as one.
Grant and company cover Sting's "King of Pain" and Sheryl Crow's "I Shall Believe," as a backdrop to John F. Kennedy's 1961 Inaugural Address followed by portions of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" and "I've Been to the Moutaintop" speeches. Citing a belief that eloquent words can make a difference, Grant inserts snippets of inspirational speeches from Mohandas Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela, along with some vocals of his own on a three of his original songs, R&B flavored tunes that sound like a Stevie Wonder/Curtis Mayfield/Marvin Gaye mix.
That may sound like a bit of a mish-mash, but Grant's artistic vision, deft sequencing and core trio sound hold it together.
It takes some chutzpah to take on a project this ambitious -- two full-length CDs that attempt to make the world a better place. Take it as "just music" or take it as an inspirational work of art. It works both ways, marvelously.