Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Adam Price Group's House Ghosts

There isn't much to clarinet player Adam Price's bio sheet. It contains just the basics--where he grew up, where he studied music and what he's doing now (teaching clarinet and theory at the Ferrwood Music Camp in Pennsylvania). Oh yes, it also mentions that in addition to the clarinet he is also proficient "on all saxophones and flutes, and has recently been deeply exploring ethnic woodwinds such as the Native American flute and didgeridoo." That seems like plenty of information, I know, but there's something missing. His new album, House Ghosts, is an enormously engaging debut album, surprising in the broadness of its scope of jazz clarinet. Where's all the copy about his dreams, aspirations and hopes for his wonderful vision of jazz?

This is one way of saying that we should let the music speak for itself. Price and his core quartet--pianist Isamu MacGregor, bassist Jack Synoski and drummer Spencer Inch--aren't reinventing the wheel here, but they do have an honest and lyrical approach to these tunes that's charming and affable without glossing over the details. MacGregor, who coincidentally was featured on the Orkestra Eustoria album I reviewed yesterday, adds the same melodic strength and conviction through his detailed style, while Synoski and Inch are a capable and focused rhythm section. Jeff Hatcher's additional percussion adds texture and depth, and Kristina Rajgelj's gorgeous and seductive voice graces "Chameleon Colored Eyes" and "Summer Thunder." But this album is centered around one thing--Price's powerful and forward clarinet.

Personally, I have strong feelings about the clarinet. My youngest son played it for many years, and I was surprised that I was able to catch on quite quickly thanks to some basic training I had with saxophones many years ago. The clarinet, therefore, is relatively easy to play compared to other woodwinds and brass instruments--I still can't manage to produce a single smooth note on a flute--but the secret in the art of the clarinet is to capture that unique and evocative timbre of the instrument and convey feelings and emotions that are extremely specific. Price excels at this. Every note from his clarinet establishes the mood, the direction for others to follow.

House Ghosts, therefore, is a love letter to the clarinet, an album to listen to when you really want to hear this instrument soar. It's a pleasure to hear a talent like this emerge so confident and masterful the first time out, and I look forward to what Price attempts in the future--even if it's with a didgeridoo.

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