Thank God he did. The artistic camaraderie evidenced then is even more pronounced now. Add to that fine mix Gil’s brother, Ansy Defay, on tenor and soprano saxes, Matthew Smythe on organs, Ben Nicolas on drums, Bendji Allonce on percussion, and Antonio Peñalva on guitar. Now we got the makin’s.
To say that Gil and the guys are incredible musicians is obvious. From the fun run of D. Bros Groove to the tight cohesion and sweet lyricism of Le Cri, the artistry of each musician in on full display. Ben Nicolas is absolutely enthralling with his drumming. Joel Desroches and Parker McAllister are simply splendid together and hearing te Defay brothers in tandem is a joy everyone should experience.
But there is something about Gil that draws you out. There is a sweetness to the man, a spirituality that reaches deep, if you’re willing to let it. When you get to the third track, What a Friend, everything becomes clear. It is a crystal clear expansion on the old church hymn What a Friend (We Have in Jesus).
Ah, so there it is. The sweetness of Gil Defay is the sweetness of something else passing through him but conforming Gil to that other image. And each one of the artists make a beautiful contribution to that hymn and confirm what Art Blakey said, “Where Jazz is played is a sacred place.”
Sacred. That is the word. Are the remaining pieces religious? Not at all. Are they even spiritual? Not really. But they are sacred. Purified by love and devotion, there is a feeling of transcendence in the album.
From the warm devotion of You’re So Good to the smoking blues of D Bros Blues and Parker McAllister’s thunderous bass lines to the cool delivery of The Lean, Gil plays, arranges, produces, and directs this album to brilliance.
Wonderful and On That NYC are proof enough of all that. Gil and his guys can swing, smoke, chill, and choke the tones, rhythms, harmonies, and grooves from each piece, mining every morsel of beauty and emotion. And just when you think you’ve heard it all…
The album closes with Epistrophication, the coolest reworking of Thelonious Monk you could ever hope to hear. Appropriately, the keys lead off the piece with guest Toku Jazz joining in on vocals until he joins Gil on flugelhorn. This just may be Gil at his finest but, with an album as rich and cool as this one, it is certainly hard to tell.
There is a reason the album is called It’s All Love.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl