Multifaceted Californian keyboardist Charlie Peacock, a Nashville resident, has built a personal vision of jazz deeply entangled with a myriad of styles such as funk, rock, folk, gospel, and pop, styles he continues to embrace whether as a composer, singer, instrumentalist, or record producer.
For his most recent album, When Light Flashes Help Is On the Way, he surrounded himself with a set of competent musicians who have demonstrated creative means to step up the eclectic compositions. Among them are his regular collaborator and member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Jeff Coffin on saxophones and woodwinds, the impeccable Icelandic guitarist Hilmar Jensson, rock-centered guitarist Jerry McPherson, the melodious trumpeter Matthew White, the exciting electric bassist Felix Pastorius, and the undeviating drummer Ben Perowsky. Depending on the mood envisioned for a song, other members join the primary crew.
The opening track, “Wendell Berry in the Fields at Night”, flashes with a gaudy African kizomba rhythm and features authoritative saxophone solos flanked by accordion glibness. It's a very danceable piece.
“Blue Part II” is a free-funk exertion with Afro beats and other world music connotations. Melodically driven by trumpet, the tune acquires a special taste when Coffin, playing a heavenly flute, steps to the forefront to improvise over Perowsky’s steady drumming. The sparse fills have a very positive effect and the song ends with a trumpet-flute completion for the melody.
Dedicated to Herbie Hancock and his faithful producer David Rubinson, “Automatt” is another punch-drunk jazz-funk lifted by restless bass grooves executed with tapping technique and dipped in wha-wha effect. The electric guitar chops are dead-on, the fiddle injects a dramatic classical feel, and the pace is subjected to multiple variations before the band reaches the flamboyant finale.
If Daniel Lanois’ “Still Water” offers traditional pop textures with pronouncedly folk statements coming from the violin and the accordion, “Samuel and the Icelandic Indigo”, co-written by Peacock and Jensson, leaps into a sort of alternative jazz-rock while displaying beautiful acoustic guitar forays whose textural complexity recalls some older work by Marc Ribot.
Emotionally strong and sank in the fulfilling plucks delineated by the guest contrabassist Matt Wigton, “The Intimate Lonely” is an imaginative, trumpet-led ballad that also showcases the bandleader’s pianistic competence. Still, the peak of the emotions occurs on Bob Dylan’s hit “Masters of War”, here packed with devotional saxophone lines, uttering violin shrieks, and bluesy guitar ululations.
The record finishes with “Gift Economy”, a psychedelic blend of Tom Tom Club's humorous post-disco, Kraftwerk’s synthpop artificiality, and a more serious current of folk-rock. It acquires jazz contortions during the feline guitar solo regardless.
Charlie Peacock makes use of his cross-genre easiness with intelligence. Bountiful, he assures there is plenty of room for his peers to stretch out, orchestrating and leading as a legit master.
1 Wendell Berry in the Fields at Night 4:28
2 Blue Part Two 3:45
3 Automatt 6:10
4 Still Water 5:10
5 Samuel and the Iceland Indigo 2:20
6 The Intimate Lonely 5:22
7 Masters of War 5:59
8 Gift Economy 5:38
Jeff Coffin: saxophones, flute
Matthew White: trumpet
Hilmar Jensson: electric and acoustic guitar
Jerry McPherson: electric guitar
Andy Leftwich: mandolin, fiddle
Jeff Taylor: accordion
Felix Pastorius: electric bass
Ben Perowsky: drums + guests