Irvin Mayfield/Gordon Parks
Half Past Autumn Suite
Gordon Parks is truly a hero of mine. The color of his skin being an incredible hurdle, Parks cleared every barrier in his way to become the first black photographer of Life and Vogue, did incredible work for the WPA and became the first black director hired in Hollywood (Shaft, in case you didn’t know). Parks’s artistry has, over the decades, branched out into composing, painting and writing. The man should be lauded to the high heavens for the quality and brilliance of his art and the steely determination he had to see it displayed before the eyes of the world. I love Gordon Parks.
That same love is felt in Half Past Autumn Suite. The young trumpeter Irvin Mayfield (of Los Hombres Calientes fame) was commissioned to compose a suite for Parks’s Half Past Autumn photo exhibit. Apparently, Mayfield surrounded himself with Parks’s work as he composed this. And there’s an ebullient love and admiration infused in the work that cannot be denied.
Mayfield brings every bit of his brilliant talent to bear in this suite. The work is introspective and reverential while not seeming at all fossilized, filled with the blues that surrounds much of Parks’ oeuvre. With the help of Parks himself (playing piano on the melancholic “Wind Song”), Wynton Marsalis (on the uber blues, “Blue Dawn”), tenor sax man Marcus Strickland (who shines on “Moonscape”) and Delfeayo Marsalis (who doubles as trombonist and producer), Mayfield’s quintet brings us a truly golden album. Mayfield shows a skill, intellect and introspection far beyond his 24 years. This is an album to cherish. Mayfield should not only be applauded for his evident talent, but also for the absolute power and grace he’s utilized to the fullest in paying homage to the great artist and courageous human being who is Gordon Parks.