Bill Carrothers - Ghost Ships
Bill Carrothers - piano
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Wind up the victrola
His master’s voice sounds good tonight
Coins strewn on a coral reef
A ship’s bell ringing in the fog
A pitching deck
An incoming shell
A padre’s last rites
I’m only 21 (my birthday is next week)
Walk in the hold
Smell the air
Hear the Captain
Feel the sway of a million ships
The creaking, clanging, churning
traffic of a million ghosts.
Recorded September 11-12,
Here is what people are saying about Ghost Ships:
JazzReview (UK) - June 2003
by Jack Cooke
All three here are equally credited, as composers as well as players, on the opening track and the pervasive title track. Carrothers is credited for a further six, and his known ability to ferret out the improbable from the available for the rest of it offers the sense of his overall control. He's a fine pianist technically, never flashy for the sake of it; Stewart's worked with him before and is always on his wavelength; Denner I know nothing about except what's here and he's always intriguing.
"The Gathering" slowly builds on chords and swishing drums to Denner's entry, the first "Ghost ship" is equally impressionistic, then Wayne Shorter's "Water Babies", clean and spare, further develops a sense of liquidity before a sense of struggle. "In the Wheelhouse" returns to what might be happening on the surface and makes a break.
"Prelude To A Kiss" makes you think more of Sun Ra's interpretations from the early 90's than anything of Ellington's: Denner's alto recalling Marshall Allen, Carrothers' piano equally forceful - though his brief interpolation of "I Can't Get Started" also threw me towards Allen and Paul Bley, Barrage and the crazy daze of the ESP label...Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" gets a straight reading and is maybe a reminder that this material was recorded on 9/11 a year after. These things don't easily go away.
"Home Row" is fast and beboppy; "Ghost Ship (two) may be a gurgling meeting between Captain Nemo and the flying Dutchman, and the DeSilva, Brown, and Henderson "Your Hit Parade" lets you know that whatever anybody might be able to retrieve from the archives of popular music, Carrothers will ace them every tune. It might even be that the strange distant song behind the frantic clanging on "Ghost Ship" (three) could be Molloy and Kenney's "The Vagabond", from circa 1880 - it stirs vague memories, but I wouldn't put money on it. "Gitchee Gumee" is rather more serene than the title suggests; "The Navy Hymn" (better known here as "For Those In Peril On the Sea") seems deliberately to invoke the sense of something going - or gone.
It's fascinating, skilled; also quite eerie, arouses - perhaps is intended to convey - a sense of profound discomfort within its breadth of reference. Something that won't be forgotten once heard.
Minneapolis Star Tribune - May 30, 2003
by Tom Surowicz
Recorded in New York City one year after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, "Ghost Ships" often seems like a haunted, otherworldly album, although that clearly has a lot more to do with pianist Carrothers' take on distant history, his remembrances of naval things past, than any recent collective American distress.
Reunited with his mates from A Band In All Hope - saxophonist Anton Denner and quirky drum marvel Bill Stewart - the Twin Cities native gets a strikingly organic sound from his his keys, which all but breathe on a hovering cover of Wayne Shorter's "Water Babies." However, all is not ethereal on "Ghost Ships." There are a pair of rollicking post-bop swingers and a punchy, Monk-ish, acerbic version of Duke Ellington's "Prelude To A Kiss" that suggests a casual workout at the boxing gym as much as it does romance.
If there's a Sept. 11 echo on this great new disc, it can be heard in a spooky, irreverent version of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," with Denner wailing out the melody and Stewart unleashing a Pandora's box of drum tools and timbres.
Jazz Magazine - March 2003 - Disque d'Emoi
A magnificent sound clothes this recording. An atmosphere, which one becomes immediately convinced is dressed like a phantom spaceship , so that one no longer has to leave: The Gathering in so many brilliant voicings on which float a tenor with the counterpoint of cymbals; and the tone is a given! Obviously, the band knows itself and remembers who they are (nine years have yet passed since “A Band in All Hope” on Bridge Boy Music), from which there is a certain clarity in the collective expression. An immortal ballad of Duke (Prelude to a Kiss) cements a pure connivance of accents, equally of an account of strong emotions. Above all Denner—flirting with Getz, Rollin, Ernie Watts—holding then his notes long in the mouth, to better kiss them. A them of Wayne Shorter, definitively stamped a la Davis, and—there’s the music, cajoled, that turns around the melody (baritone sax), gorges itself on emotion, breathes, plants itself in three open hands so it can more effectively flower. And the play, always the play, of influence and of sharing, cascades of clear notes (soprano—piano) on a stream of toms that roll with pleasure. They even close with a sea chanty, a breath of fresh air (literally, fresh air freeing up days of foam/scum). After an electric episode, the whimsical Carrothers rebounds with a jazz that doesn’t look for its impact in the direction of volume, but rather in its depth, its fragrance. In the end, it’s about the joining of thick sonorities. It's an elegant and opulent example of the perfume of jazz.
Jazzman Magazine - 4 stars
It's been several years since Bill Carrothers, with saxophonist Anton Denner and drummer Bill Stewart, formed a trio with which he recorded (and released on Bridge Boy Music) under the name of "A Band in All Hope". They recorded compositions inspired by the Inferno of Dante. It's with this group that he is reunited to present to us his "ghost ships" (indefinable specters which come back three times over the course of the disc in the form of indistinct sounds) and their evasive universe, haunted by bewitching legends, of superstitions of buccaneers and chants of sirens, that are not far from those evoked in "Speak no Evil" by Wayne Shorter (to which the trio takes again "Water Babies", troubling children of water--as there is in it others (other legends of fire.) An artist of obscure hues and nuances perfectly captured by the recording, the pianist pursues his exploration of a vaguely unsettling world, unstable and always a bit strange. If Bill Stewart, with his subdued cymbals and broken rhythms, seems an ideal partner, one can be on the other hand taken aback by the sonority of Anton Denner, even if this one contributes, with his acidity, to the sepulchral atmosphere of the music.
In this last album, Ghost Ships, one finds
in Sketch the aesthetic and artistic coherence of the label: the object initially, digipack with the small pocket of phantoms of texts, with the braided lines of the colors of each instrument and in addition, an impeccable sound orchestrated by the faithful Gerard de Haro, even if for the circumstance,
they went to New York City to follow the trio of Bill Carrothers, Anton Denner and Bill Stewart. Because
they act, once again, of a true trio and not of the disc of a leader with pianist in addition,
they are excellently surrounded for the occasion.
In the infernal continuation engaged by the trio, when one endeavors to follow one of these three musicians, one is grabbed invariably by the other two: impossible to be detached from the unit, each is fastened to the mast as surely as Ulysses and his companions under the influence of Circé, the magician. A true fascination emerges from this continuation of melodies which are connected ineluctably until the episode (epilogue) final, a kind of history of the American dream which underwent disillusions and disenchantments. Indeed, the album, recorded exactly one year after September 11, 2001, vibrates of a certain national feeling (but not nationalistic). One knows the attachment of Bill Carrothers to America and its history, since the very beautiful disc on the American Civil War, The Blues and the Greys. After a first topic of the trio, a symbolic system of gathering, it is a traditional air, "The Navy Hymn", with the funeral pace of march which closes the album, after a diverted and distorted version of God Bless America. Meanwhile the topics of Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Wayne Shorter and Brown/de Silva/Henderson join the collective compositions of the trio or those written by Bill Carrothers.
A serious music, exalted, demanding, lyric and
somber, that makes one marvel at the thick rumblings of Bill Stewart, the harsh
and tender cry from the saxophones of Anton Denner, and the slow and penetrating
hammer of the piano. Listen only to In The Wheelhouse to be convinced. An
atmospheric music that seizes one inescapably: one can only abandon oneself in
shivering at this strange climate, fantastic like a genre film, disturbing, but
never weighty. As to the story, each can tell his own, and finally; don't ask for
whom the bell tolls.
- Sophie Chambon
This rich album, full of a complexity that is never annoying but rather joyful, which boasts an infinity of musical messages, possesses nevertheless an obvious clarity.
....one is rather in the spirit of the duo of two men than that of The Electric Bill. The music is unfettered and without airs. They are not in the genre of too many notes, quite the opposite. Each takes his place serenely, finding here all its sense. The repertoire, essentially originals, gives a very large meaning to the word jazz. One speaks simply of actual acoustic music, respecting jazz, among others. if you think that drums is an affair of colors, climates, interior tempo, sharing, exchange, and emotion, then the playing of Bill Stewart here will ravish your soul. Blessed with an immense technique, he can justly permit himself to play to any diagram. But certain cuts keep also their rapid virtuosity, however not jarring. Enchantment often cedes it place to surprise. An intelligent pleasure.