Pianist Lafayette Gilchrist has played with David Murray’s Black Saint Quartet and as a leader. His third disc shows that he knows how to write for a large group. The New Volcanoes’ frontline includes two tenors, two trumpets and an alto, and Gilchrist exploits the combination for some rich sounds, as well as some beautifully dissonant ones. For example, “Detective’s Tip” is Gilchrist’s foray into film noir and the group responds in kind with the latter approach. The title track, which opens the album, is built on a spare, funky groove that begins sounding like a New Orleans riff, a little more Meters than second line.
For contrast, Gilchrist plays a solo piece at the mid-point, paying homage to Andrew Hill in “Uncrowned.” The setback on Soul Progressin’ is that while the horns expand and move into different realms on different tracks, the rhythm section stays in the same frame of mind. Drummer Nathan Reynolds turns the beat around on the opener, but for most of the album he largely sticks with a basic backbeat, while bassist Anthony “Blue” Jenkins relies on easy vamps. The result sounds great on a couple of songs, but with all that harmonic possibilities unfolding with the horns, the back end of the group doesn’t live up to the music’s potential.