CD review: Neil Gonsalves Trio – Blessings and Blues 2021: Video, CD cover

- in BLUES, New CD's Review, VIDEOS

This third release from South African pianist/ composer Neil Gonsalves is a celebration of the motherland, reflection on life at (and beyond) the age of 50 and clear acknowledgement of the bearing and blanketing nature of the blues, used herein as a powerful springboard to discovery.

Leading an incredibly capable trio with bassist Ildo Nanja and drummer Riley Giandhari, Gonsalves explores dimensions well beyond any implied form or formal nature. That’s clear from the start, as “The Calling” coalesces into an invocation and sermon on ascent. The first of the album’s dozen originals, that piece grows in strength and substance while demonstrating the mutable nature of blessings, blues and what exists beyond those frames. As Gonsalves continues, he furthers that line of thinking through various branches. “The Musician’s Wedding” emits joyous tides in its unfolding, “Midnight Moves” dances on moonbeams, “African Time” offers heightened intensity both in flowing streams and the fragmented thoughts they bookend, and “The Breadmaker’s Blues” uses creative cross-rhythms as a foundation for growth and melodic exploration.

None of the aforementioned material slots within any strict definition for the blues, nor do the seven tracks that fill the remainder of the program. Instead of working within a narrow(ing) harmonic scope and structure, Gonsalves prefers to take the music to various highs, lows, outer reaches and inner realms that help to contextualize the overarching idea(l) in terms of personal and spiritual significance. The electrified “Let’s Do It Again” works with liquid tones and contemporary cool, “Rise and Shine” offers the bouncing promise of a new day’s dawn, “Disciples, We” binds a state of rumination with the act of movement and “A Dollar for Your Thoughts” playfully develops over scampering time. Through it all, in exploring grand peaks, deep dales and the territory between them, Neil Gonsalves mines the essence of the blues in his own sweet way.

01. The Calling
02. The Musician’s Wedding
03. Midnight Moves
04. African Time
05. The Breadmaker’s Blues
06. Underworlds and Overseas
07. Let’s Do It Again
08. Rise and Shine
09. Southern Migration
10. Disciples, We
11. A Dollar For Your Thoughts
12. Qantani

Neil Gonsalves: piano;

Ildo Nanja: bass;

Riley Giandhari: drums

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