Tenor saxophonist, composer, and educator Tom Tallitsch who has been around performing and recording for about 25 years now, puts a lot of personal grief and joy into his latest recording “Gratitude”. During the process of recording and writing this album, his father died from a brief illness and Tom himself became a father at the end of January, just a couple of months before the release date of the album, which is March 25th (congratulations Father Tom).
Most of the songs were written during his rides from New York to Cleveland to help his family and the choice of the three covers is simply excellent. I can’t help but congratulate him on choosing the Stevie Nicks classic “Gold Dust Woman” (from “Rumours”) as a part of his latest project. I’ve been waiting for so long for someone to re-imagine and re-interpret the Fleetwood Mac songs prom their most productive and imaginative period, circa 1974-1980. Pianist Jon Davis, who also has a great new album out on Posi-Tone under his own name (see review on these pages), starts off the track in soulful, bluesy fashion before Tom states the melody. “Rock on, gold dust woman/Take your silver spoon and dig your grave” – the tune is elaborately transformed into a moody, denunciating piece with some extra spice thrown in by organist Brian Charette.
The album starts off with the brooding “Terrain” and continues with a hilariously relaxed “Kindred Spirit” with ample bass work by Peter Brendler and luxurious drum play coming from Rudy Royston. There is a lot of burning playing with interesting shifts and styles on “Refuge” and more healing and stimulating textures on the soothing “Northeast” where Jon shines on a short, but effective solo. Is it because Tom is also writing for dance companies that his compositions all have this compelling, impacting quality? “Alternate Side” has this exuberant vibe with a lot of expressive blowing, but still retains a well-rounded ethos.
“Because”, the Beatles number from their 1969 “Abbey Road” album, is a welcome change in pace with its meditative touch before it gets grittier again on “Rust Belt”, which Tom wrote at his parent’s home in Cleveland on a winter day after his father’s wake. It is full of question marks, outbursts, cries, and anger as well. A powerful piece. The title track, on the other side, represents a much sunnier, contented part of this well-balanced set. The only track that sounds too confusing and uneven to me (maybe it’s intended like that) is “Oblivion”. Tom finishes the album with another tune that was originally written in 1969: Led Zeppelin‘s “Thank You”, again with Brian Charette on organ, is a reflective, down-to-the-bone, entertaining rendition.
So who is going to record the Fleetwood Mac songbook please?