Billy Childs – Map to the Treasure: Reimaging Laura Nyro (2014)

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Just when I think I have my list of great jazz albums set for 2014, here comes pianist Billy Childs’ Map to the Treasure: Reimaging Laura Nyro. The multi-Grammy winner has been on the jazz scene as a solo artist and has produced memorable works since his solo debut in 1988. His most recent release, 2010’s Autumn: In Moving Pictures, Vol. 2, combines the finest elements of jazz and classical. The pianist is also a 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artists award. Additionally, Childs in no stranger to the pop world, having worked with Sting among others.

With Map To the Treasure: Reimaging Laura Nyro, Billy Childs enlists the help of producer extraordinaire Larry Klein. Klein, a Grammy award winner in his own right boasting production credits with Joni Mitchell, Walter Becker and the on-coming Rickie Lee Jones album — as well has bass playing credits with Childs’ mentor, the late Freddie Hubbard — is no stranger in casting the right musician for the setting. Childs, however, does his homework with graceful arrangements and sympathetic playing. The artists are diverse yet seem to blend perfectly with the song.

“And When I Die” provides a jazzy, soulful feel that singer Alison Krauss can work her magic on. The piano into and subsequent flourished intertwined with the string arrangements are mesmerizing, while Jerry Douglas’ dobro solo is haunting. “Been A Train,” featuring Rickie lee Jones on vocals and former Steely Dan sideman Chris Potter on tenor sax, is another stellar track. Childs’ reworking of the original is magical, with an elegant string intro followed by a slow steady march to a stunning musical climax that features aggressive flashes of Childs’ piano, the strings and Chris Potter’s passionate tenor sax.

Susan Tedeschi’s appearance on the song “Gidsom Street,” which also features Steve Wilson, is a casting which seems problematic at first but ultimately rewarding. Childs’ thematic arrangement and Klein’s vocal production allow the listener to hear Tedeschi in a fantastic new light. No Laura Nyro album can be complete without her anthem “Save The Country.” On Map to the Treasure: Reimaging Laura Nyro, Shawn Colvin provides the spark (along with Chris Botti’s trumpet) that Billy Childs’ arrangement and piano lights. Other stand out tracks include the title song featuring Lisa Fischer, “Stoned Soul Picnic” with Ledisi and “Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp.”

With Map to the Treasure: Reimaging Laura Nyro, it looks like my best albums of 2014 list just got longer.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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