Patrick Beckman’s multi-movement suite is a most engaging work that demonstrates as much about the composer’s compositional/performance skills as it reveals his inner being. Here’s both music and an individual worth getting to know better.
Not surprisingly, he employs direct references (the Peter Gunn theme—a favourite private eye show that had a three-year run starting in 1958—adds much to the piano noire feel of “Stomp”) and a few veiled ones (a glimmer of “Edelweiss” slips into the melodic consciousness of the lovingly rendered “Country Waltz” and a dollop of Joplin’s “The Entertainer” only adds to the universality of the opening “Funky”).
While there is much to admire on all of the tracks, “Blues” provides the greatest satisfaction. The tempo is perfect (to create a mood of easy-going poise and steady assurance is not as simple as many might think); the voicing (both melody and accompaniment) is such that you can almost “hear” the bass and drums—the extended upper-register solos grow organically as the improvisation expands at every turn. The final measures—an understandably reluctant farewell—only whet the appetite for more.
Three miniature interludes are deftly inserted, allowing the overall structure to breathe and settle. The second of these is a thoughtful meditation with marvellous harmonic shifts that sooth the tribal dissonance of the previous “Stomp” and simultaneously prepare the way for the engaging swing and affable joy of “Gospel.” Beckman also shows his considerable command of touch, adding just the right amount of weight to reinforce the harmonic/melodic direction and design—only his own unwritten throaty interventions detract from the total effect.
The closing “Rock” seems momentarily constrained in the early going, but once the gruff bass ostinato is launched, the feeling of unstoppable drive returns even as the near-classical sequences are skillfully tossed off. The final measures sum up this celebration of life brilliantly: these chimes toll for we! JWR