To help Jesse on his cause and quest, he brings along a core group and featured artists including saxophonist Godwin Louis, trumpeters Billy Buss and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, vocalist Becca Stevens, harmonica great Gregoire Marét, tenor sax player Morgan Guerin, drummer Obed Calvaire and percussionist Keita Ogawa, bassist David Cutler and guitarist Jordan Peters. Joining him from the Ajoyo line-up is the amazing Sarah Elizabeth Charles on vocals. It is a dream line-up, no doubt.
The album starts with the title track, Resilience. It features trumpeter extraordinaire Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. It opens with cool horns lines and evokes great imagery of personal strength and rebounding in the face of adversity. Jesse’s piano riffs hold a firm line of determination and optimism with resurging horns and powerful percussion. It is almost an anthem to strength of will. Wait for the Moog solo that closes out the track. Not just resilient—triumphant.
Healing is an elegiac piece with beautiful contributions from Godwin Louis on saxophone, Billy Buss on trumpet, and the amazing rhythm section of bassist David Cuter, drummer Obed Calvaire, and, of course, Jesse himself. It is an excellent piece to follow Resilience. After all, healing can come from resilience.
Push/Pull is the first of only two vocal tracks and it features Becca Stevens on vocals. The song opens with Becca and Jesse on the first notes. It is a lament of returning cycles in our lives—in politics, inter-personal relations, and our struggles with and against ourselves. It is Jazz and folk with touches of Eastern rhythms and chords. Jesse draws on everything within his considerable attention.
Refection Point has Jesse on the electric piano and he proves that, if it has keys, he can play it. He can make a ‘53 Buick sound like a symphony. Tenor sax player Morgan Guerin is featured and percussionist Keita Ogawa and drummer Obed Calvaire turn in a beautifully extended rhythm passage.
Chorale is exquisite in its compiling of diverse influences like Black Church, Jewish traditions, European classicism, and more. Jesse mused, “I tried to imagine Glenn Gould, playing a bar mitzvah, at an A.M.E. church deep in Brooklyn…what would that sound like?” It can be plaintive, mournful, and still uplifting and hopeful. Almost the shortest piece on the album, it is also one of the most meaningful.
All of that changes with Play Date. Celebrating children at play, it is heavy on the frivolity and joy. Cool synthesizers from Jess and a magnificent horn section with vibrant rhythms from the percussionists set up the brilliant play of trumpeter Billy Buss and guitarist Jordan Peters. A riotously fun song with supreme musicianship to make the fun look easy.
The Wanderer features Gregoire Marét on harmonica. It is melancholic but also more than a little meditative, like the musings of a troubadour or the reminiscences of the old railroad hobo. It is both sweet and sad and it brings back memories for even the most jaded listener. Jesse and the core band gives plenty of space for Gregoire’s explorations. Again, Jesse takes to the synthesizer with touching passages. Beautifully conceived, beautifully done.
Same Mistakes features the wonderful vocals of Sarah Elizabeth Charles, who co-wrote the song with Jesse. It doesn’t get any better than Sarah on vocals. She can empower a song with the anger of the moment while delivering it with a delicacy and deliciousness that is truly incomparable. The band is tight within a construct of demanding liberation. And yet there is a certain sense of not-quite-resignation that is truly haunting.
Jesse wraps it up with Meditation on Peace. What a magnificent explosion of hope and determination. Godwin Louis’ soprano sax with Jesse’s piano is a gorgeous pairing, so full of visions of what might be, could be, should be. This is a brilliant ending to a brilliant album.
Jesse Fischer has not only envisioned and composed a beautiful album, he has brought together the right players for the right job. It is executed with power and precision and—dare I say—purity. Resilience does not lose its way once. It is focused and is a frontal assault at what life throws our way, and how we can overcome.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl