David Gilmore: Unified Presence

David Gilmore may record infrequently as a leader, but this hasn’t diminished his significance on the cutting edge of the New York scene. His long-awaited sophomore release, Unified Presence, features Christian McBride on acoustic and electric bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, with tenor/soprano saxophonist (and RKM co-founder) Ravi Coltrane and vocalist Claudia Acuña sitting in.

The music runs on jet fuel. It’s hard to imagine a rhythm section better suited for Gilmore’s angular, bass-driven funk, of the sort heard on “Vertical Path,” “Law of Balance,” “Snake Theory” and the title track. But there’s a deeply lyrical color to some of the writing; consider the soprano sax feature “Protean Way” or the nylon-string numbers “Douala” and “Window to the Soul.” Sonic experimentation creeps into the interlude “Goga” and the more fleshed-out “Hankaskis.” There are shades of Afro-Cuban rhythm and M-Base-not to mention pure, devastating swing on “11th Hour Blues.” Gilmore’s clean, fast lines and chordal musings have never sounded better. McBride’s electric solo on “Law of Balance” does some damage as well. But when Acuña joins to close the set with Toninho Horta’s “Broken Kiss,” the heavens open and emotion rains down.

David R. Adler

David R. Adler writes about jazz and assorted topics. His work has appeared in JazzTimes, NPR Music, WBGO.org, The Philadelphia InquirerThe Village Voice, DownBeat, Time Out New York, and many other publications. From 2010-2017 he taught jazz history at the Aaron Copland School of Music (Queens College-CUNY). In summer 2017, after 30 years in New York (apart from two in Philadelphia), David relocated with his family to Athens, Georgia. There he continues to write about music and perform solo as a guitarist/vocalist.