Keith Pray: Confluence (2012)
When most people discuss the jazz scene in New York, they're referring to the music that's made in Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs, but the Empire State stretches far beyond the city that never sleeps and jazz is made in many a locale within. The Capital region, for example, has its own burgeoning jazz scene that's worth noting and saxophonist Keith Pray is a key part of it.
Pray has become a force for furthering jazz through performance and education. He directs the Proctors Summer Jazz Institute, teaches jazz arranging and history at Schenectady County Community College, and teaches instrumental music in the Schenectady City School District. When Pray isn't instilling a love for jazz in the next generation, he can be found playing with bands of all shapes and sizes. For this, his fifth date as a leader, he initially brought his quartet together, but that wasn't the end of it. Inspired by a long ago encounter with a John Scofield-augmented Joe Henderson trio, Pray decided to add a fifth wheel in the form of guitarist Chuck D'Aloia and it was a wise choice.
All five men move through this originals-heavy session with fervor and focus as they touch on myriad ideas. Loose, flowing forms ("Alley Cat") comfortably mingle with waltzing pleasantries ("Two Years Of The Lotus Blossom"), catchy minor blues ("The Calling") and sly swingers ("Winter Brings"), giving the band an opportunity to explore various harmonic, melodic and rhythmic terrain. The high energy affairs, including the McCoy Tyner-ish title track and a rocking take on John Coltrane's "Africa," prove to be the album highlights, but Pray's positive and spirited playing keeps things interesting in every setting, from the mellow "Song For Katie" to the Brazilian-bottomed "Triangle, Circle, Square."
The musicians and materials that Pray brought together for this date fit hand in glove, demonstrating that this album title isn't mere hyperbolic lip service to an unmet ideal. Confluence truly lives up to its name.
Track Listing: The Calling; Triangle, Circle, Square; Alley Cat; Gingerbread Boy; Vamp for Peace; Two Years of the Lotus Blossom; Africa; Song for Katie; Confluence; Winter Brings.
Personnel: Keith Pray: alto saxophone; Chuck D'Aloia: guitar; Peter Tomlinson: piano; Lou Pappas: bass; Jeff "Siege" Siegle: drums.
Record Label: ARC - Artists Recording Collective