Dark Matter is a solo piano concert recorded in recital hall of a Baltimore university. In a way, the album brings Gilchrist full circle in his career. He got a late start playing piano when he wandered into an unlocked recital room and started playing with a piano. Even though he’d never played one before, he said the sounds he made felt right. The chance encounter with a Steinway ignited a passion that turned into a career. Gilchrist has had a long working relationship with saxophonist David Murray as well as leading his own group the New Volcanoes. One of his tracks even found its way into the score of HBO’s The Deuce.
The thing I like best about Dark Matter is that it just feels right. Gilchrist has an impressive mastery of the instrument and jazz history. The opening number, “For The Go-Go” mixes stride piano with undercurrents funky dance music. “Spontaneous Combustion” has a dark rhythm playing on the low end with a competing bright melody playing in the upper registers. It often sounds like there is a conversation going on between the left and right hands, building tension and release. I like the jaunty interplay on “Blues For Our Marches To End.” The song has an uplifting vibe and flourishes that call back to what the piano player would vamp along to a silent movie.
I keep coming back to how Dark Matter feels. It’s a record that calms and energizes yet can still slide into the background as ambient music. I had a friend stop by feeling distraught about turmoil in their life. I put the album on, playing quietly in the background while we talked. As we were talking over the heavy life crisis going on, they stopped and said, “This music makes me feel a lot better.” I think that story is as good a testimonial as a piece of music can get.