With the release of their compact disc 'Dancing Day,' Bill Carter and the Presbybop Quartet establish themselves as a rising force in lyrical, swinging jazz. Based in northeastern Pennsylvania, the band consists of Bill Carter, piano and primary composer; Al Hamme, saxophones, flute, and clarinet; Tony Marino, acoustic bass; and Tom Whaley, drums. The new album is a follow-up to 'Faith in a New Key,' their inaugural recording from 1998. Since the band's formation in 1993, this quartet of seasoned professionals has been stirring up crowds wherever they play. They caught the attention of no less a figure than jazz legend Dave Brubeck, who recently announced, 'Bill Carter is a great piano player. I think his music is wonderful!' Though they belong to different generations, Carter and Brubeck enjoy a mutual admiration. In fact, one of Bill's original tunes on the new album began with an afternoon of music-making at Dave's house in Connecticut. 'At one point Dave hit a chord on his Baldwin piano,' Carter recalls, 'and as I drove home to Pennsylvania, I spent the entire time trying to figure out what he had played. In the process, I composed a new tune.' That's the genesis of 'When Hope Comes Home.' It is dedicated to Mr. Brubeck, and, quite naturally, it ends with that mystical chord. The new recording begins with an up-tempo rendition of 'Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day,' a medieval carol usually reserved for church choirs. In the hands of these musicians, however, it doesn't take long before the intricate rhythms of a Celtic jig become a stomping blues. At the end of the disc is a thrilling version of J. S. Bach's 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.' Never willing to do anything easy, the band plays the classic as a samba in 3/2 time. As Bill explains, 'Everybody in the band was schooled on Bach's music. The guys laughed with surprise when we first ran through the arrangement. We've been having fun with it ever since.' From beginning to end, the album is a showpiece for Carter's lyrical approach to composition. It is clear from the spirited performances on this disc that his tunes ignite the imagination of the band. The gospel-tinged 'Pass the Plate,' for instance, prompts a great solo by bassist Tony Marino. Drummer Tom Whaley wails on the calypso 'Dancing Girl.' And the whole band sails easily through the 5/4 rhythms of 'Resignation.' 'I love writing for this band!' Bill exclaims. 'They breathe life into the black dots on the page, and I'm always thrilled with their creativity.' Listen, for instance, to Al Hamme's bop-infused sax as he rides over Marino's supple bass lines in 'I Lost My Keys in Kennedy Airport.' Their intuitive duet gets right to the heart of jazz. These two masters weave a spontaneous two-part invention. It's a dialogue between sensitive musicians who anticipate and enjoy one another. As with the band's debut album, 'Dancing Day' features the guest vocals of Jacque Tara Washington. Ms. Washington has appeared on the Black Entertainment Television's 'Jazz Discoveries' series. A rising star in her own right, Jacque's voice adds emotional depth to the three vocal cuts on this CD. Noting her performance on 'The Gift of the Spirit,' Carter says, 'When Jacque sings about hope, the very feeling becomes palpable.' 'Dancing Day' is an album that will draw in listeners again and again. Whether it's the lyrical piano improvisations of the leader, the surging energy of sax, bass, and drums, or the interplay between four talented musicians, 'Dancing Day' is guaranteed to improve your day.
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