Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Under Joel Holmes' African Skies
As a general rule of thumb I'm not a big fan of the piano. There are, however, exceptions to the rule and jazz is the exception; a jazz pianist can lead a combo into improvisational bliss with just a run of the keyboard. Jazz piano prodigy Joel Holmes is one such pianist and he makes no bones about his prowess on the keyboard as he plays himself into a frenzy throughout his latest album African Skies.
African Skiesis a beautifully played record that's filled with songs that demonstrate not only his but his combo's abilities. Featuring songs by Coltrane, Hancock, and original material by Holmes himself, African Skies is loaded with classics and classics in the making. The mostly upbeat album plays with a breezy improvisational feel that's light, airy, and accessible. When the combo does slow things down for a breather Holmes and his combo show their fragile beauty and emotional grandeur. A song like the traditional, "Chinese Fishing Song," is a perfect example of this with its delicate violin playing and beautiful pacing shows not only how good this combo is but just how versatile they are.
Joel Holmes and his combo do a fantastic job of arranging the songs on African Skies and the record plays out like a weekend afternoon, active at times and lazy at others. The record is a fun listen that constantly parades Holmes' abilities on piano and his combo's ability to keep up with him and follow his lead. Quite honestly there is nothing at all wrong with this record. This is post-bop brilliance that's easy on the ears and only stands to reaffirm my belief that piano is best served by jazz. Highly recommended stuff.