CD Review: The Larry Redhouse Trio’s Spirit Progression


Jamison Mahto: Reporter/Indigenous

In The News, Indigenous In Music CD Review •


Today it seems as if we’ve broken through to the other side of winter and I suit up to get in the game. It’s Superbowl Sunday and jazz is not a good bike riding music but the I-pod is loaded and I’m riding.

The Larry Redhouse Trio features Larry Redhouse on piano/keyboards, Robin Horn, son of sax/flute great Paul Horn on drums, and Mike Levy on electric and acoustic bass.

My resource consultant Steve K. (a brilliant jazz pianist in his own right) states, “it’s forward moving fusion with a merry, positive lilt”, and I’m thinking, “we’ll see.”

Larry indicated in a short interview with me that the title song’s (Spirit Progression) weather report-like sound, symbolizes several concepts – one of which is the spiritual journey that jazz improvisation represents. The other concept is the spiritual progression that we need in our lives: to not be static but to progress forward through diversity and challenge.

“The cd title Spirit Progression, to me, signifies the growth we all have to do in order to live on this earth and be somewhat serene, useful and content,” says Larry.

Keep Trying is a song about some good advice and reminiscent of some of the more pop oriented fusion that this could be classified as –easy listening– if it weren’t for the complexity of the improvisational solos. This song features an interesting bass solo. It sounds like a fretless bass playing lovely melody with various time signatures that move freely between a half dozen different modes.

Suddenly the bike riding gets easier, the flow starts to establish itself and the Minneapolis skyline, originally covered in a gray mist, starts to clear. Sunlight gifts my heart with sight, the sidewalk goes iambic pentameter, people of rhythm dart from street corner to street corner, filled with the anticipation of lives lived in desperate quietude. And the poetry of urban desolation flows like a river down Hennepin Avenue in glorious flowering colors of indigo and ultraviolet. Let there be flow. For dessert there’s neon. Damn if the ride didn’t go and get poetic on me.

Having Diné ancestry, it’s natural that Larry would compose a song called The Desert, which features a brilliantly colored drum solo and some atmospheric synthesizer work. I can see the cacti on the high desert in bloom in my head as I round the corner, roll down the ramp to River Road, go over the stone arch bridge, climb the hill to University Avenue, and head east to the U of M campus.

The song Free Play is an improvisational departure from the norm that is a painting of sonic sound-colors from a beautiful jazz palette. This is true free form, devoid of constraints of any kind. Larry and trio bend the rules a little here.

I think the title of the song Not Chick is double entendre of the highest sort like – not chic? A clever play on words and the notion of chic, combined with the notion that women are more than a cute female fowl creature. Inside the texture of the song there is a bowed, acoustic bass, several tempo changes, and the interplay of styles. There are fast, precise scales and arpeggios in Larry’s piano playing.

The song Understanding hopefully represents the spirit progression as it leads to an understanding of life, loves, and people. An understanding of self that is insightful and profound.

“My Native Spirituality cannot be separated from my piano music internally. Just as I am a Northern Traditional Dancer, the same reverence I have dancing or praying in a Sweat Lodge, carries on into my jazz music,” says Larry.

I hope a Jazz category in Native Music becomes commonplace!

Larry says his mentors emphazised the need to “find your own voice”. Now that I’ve regained my writing after many struggles and challenges, I’m well on my way to finding mine. Sounds like Larry has found his.

I learned something today. I can ride bike to any type of music, there are no boundaries, only the boundary of self. If I want to soar beyond self, I’ve got to spread my wings and fly.

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