Touch My Beloved’s Thought
Greg Ward – Alto saxophone
Tim Haldeman – Tenor saxophone
Keefe Jackson – Tenor and baritone sax
Ben LaMar Gay – Cornet
Russ Johnson – Trumpet
Norman Palm – Trombone
Christopher Davis – Bass trombone
Dennis Luxion – Piano
Jason Roebke – Bass
Marcus Evans – Drums
With the stimulating Touch My Beloved’s Thought, alto saxophonist Greg Ward pays ingenious tribute to bassist Charles Mingus’ classic album The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. A single, 51-minute composition comprises this live recording with the only audience applause separating the different tracks. The ensemble, 10 Tongues, consists of four horns, three woodwinds and a rhythm trio.
Ward uses each of the three sections as individual voices to dramatic effect. The operatic “The Menacing Lean,” for instance, opens with bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Marcus Evans’ precise martial rumble that rolls over pianist Dennis Luxion’s thick, flowing chords. Luxion takes center stage with intriguing and expectant phrases. Brief, carefully timed screams from saxophones and brass punctuate his performance, creating a tense ambience. The group plays Latin-tinged refrains as various segments spar around trombonist Christopher Davis’ growling notes.
The music is also full of sublime contrasts, as with the short “Smash, Push, Pull, Crash,” a delightfully dissonant and energetic melee of wind instruments that dovetails into the languid and wistful “With All Your Sorrow, Sing A Song of Jubilance.” The latter features trombonist Norman Palm’s melancholic, tender solo. Cornetist Ben LaMar Gay’s mellow, soaring lines superbly complement trumpeter Russ Johnson’s muted, bluesy sound, but later Johnson is best heard on the exquisite “Dialogue of the Black Saint.”
Elsewhere, the fervent “Grit” has a hard-swinging infectious beat. Saxophonist Keefe Jackson on the baritone lets loose a torrent of mordent and acerbic lines, which he fashions into an inventive monologue. Immediately following is the soulful swagger of the R&B-ish “Round 3” where saxophonist Tim Haldeman embellishes the warm, lilting melody with elegance and passion.
Touch My Beloved’s Thought is an expressive and captivating album, and its homage to Mingus is quite apt. The music has all the elements of an enduring work and is a testament to Ward’s immense talent as a composer and bandleader.
Reviewed by Hrayr Attarian