Herlin Riley: Perpetual Optimism review – good-natured ease, brilliantly done

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Herlin Riley: Perpetual Optimism review – good-natured ease, brilliantly done


When Herlin Riley came to Britain with Wynton Marsalis’s band some years ago, his serene smile behind the drums radiated what Ira Gershwin might have called his sunny disposish. This album does the same. It has the kind of good-natured ease that could seem casual if it weren’t so brilliantly done. The tunes are lucid, the rhythms catchy, and the bright ideas keep on coming. Riley’s band are the young quintet who made their debut album, New Direction, in 2016.

The basic sound is quite distinctive, particularly the blend of trumpet (Bruce Harris) and alto saxophone (Godwin Louis), each with his own felicitous solo style. Five of the 10 pieces are Riley compositions, and the title track sums up the attractions of the whole set. You can tell by the clipped phrasing that this is the work of a drummer, and there are some tricky little turns to keep us on our toes, but it’s so rhythmically elegant – as befits a New Orleans-born percussionist. Other numbers range from the sparsely voiced, almost abstract Touched to a joyously unbuttoned excursion into the old Willie Dixon favourite Wang Dang Doodle.

Read the full piece from: The Guardian

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