Recommended: Red Planet with Bill Carrothers


You can count on Bill Carrothers for some tasteful piano work.  If the composition is a foggy window pane, Carrothers crafts a melody and clears the view.  There’s a precision to his approach that makes events easy to follow, but there’s also a warmth that makes things easy to embrace.  It’s that formula of precision and warmth that’s key to his wonderful collaboration with the trio Red Planet, as both a lesson in the power of contrast and the joy of the perfect union.

What’s especially nice about the new release Red Planet with Bill Carrothers is how relatively straight-forward renditions of Coltrane’s “Big Nick” and the Monk compositions “Think Of One” and “Reflections” both fall effortlessly into the album’s singular orbit.  But perhaps the larger statement is how they turn the Sammy Cahn-Jimmy Van Heusen tune “Come Dance With Me” into the same stuff of dream that embodies the original lullaby “Unseen Rain” and an inspired rendition of Coltrane’s late-period piece “Living Space.”

Dean Magraw rips off some intensity on guitar to fight off the thick introspection that this album could easily sink into permanently, and, conversely, he can bend melodies into shapes that bring some needed messiness to Carrothers’ crisp articulation, as he does on “Music is a Weapon for Hope and Healing.”  Alternatively, as Magraw is either forging connections with Carrothers or engaging in shadowplay, bassist Chris Bates and drummer Jay Epstein work in some differentiation of their own.  It’s why the song “Ann R Chi Suite” sometimes has a focused drive and other times sounds like it’s unraveling at the seams.  But no matter how they choose to put things into play on a particular song, there’s a cohesion between these four musician that makes every note resonant with strength and beauty.

I’m pretty well addicted to this recording.  I would’ve written about it long ago, but I kept getting lost in daydreams every time I sat back and give it a listen.  I still do this quite often.  You should try it, too.

Your album personnel:  Bill Carrothers (piano), Dean Magraw (guitars), Chris Bates (bass) and Jay Epstein (drums).

Released on Shifting Paradigm Records.

Listen to more album tracks at the label’s Bandcamp page.

Music from Minneapolis, MN.

Available at:  Bandcamp | Amazon