Album review

Rich Perry – ‘Everything Happens’

Rich PerryEverything Happens
(Steeplechase, SCCD 31937. Album review by Frank Griffith)

Veteran NYC saxophonist Rich Perry‘s 2022 CD Everything Happens showcases equally his talents and abilities as composer and player. Perry states: “I’ve been enjoying this process of coming up with little ideas and then bringing them to my friends, with basically just an idea of the key centre, and Gary (Versace) will add the harmonies and completely transform them”. This suggests that each composition undergoes a process akin to group improvisation and organic development. It has been said that improvisation is “composition sped up” making the seven Perry pieces on this disc a mutually collaborative process that scores winningly.

Everything Happens album cover, blue brick wall with writing on top

The “friends” in question are pianist Gary Versace, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer John Riley, a regular group of Perry’s for his last three CDs for Steeplechase. Their empathetic and cohesive communication is plainly evident throughout with each member contributing equally to the overall result.

The title, Everything Happens, is an appropriate one for the adventurous and varied nature of the repertoire as well as referring to the inclusion of Matt Dennis’ Everything Happens To Me. This classic standard is one of the two non-Perry pieces and its slow, yearning tempo runs for over ten minutes yet never breaks the thread of the melancholic yet hopeful bathos of the song. The leader’s warm, dark yet searingly insistent tonal quality goes a long way to mesmerising the listener into a continual awed state.

Another standard, Comes Love, accomplishes the same effect at nearly ten minutes at a laconically medium tempo. A song that is largely associated with singers (Billie, Carmen, Sarah, Madeleine Peyroux, Rosie Clooney, et al) is certainly overdue for an instrumental treatment. Perry’s paced and fervent lyricism delivers a passionate and unique reading of this time-honoured minor-tinged gem.

In contrast, the remaining original pieces are much shorter in length (circa four to six minutes) yet make effective vehicles nonetheless. Possibly because the thematic material is more opaque and less drawn out, enabling the quartet to exploit a deeper organic and egalitarian approach in mediating the lines between themes and improvisation.

Titles like Mala, Yareki, Fong On and Denise Bell conjure up the mood and abstract climates allowing these pieces to flourish effortlessly.

Neil Tesser’s liner notes impart a sagacious summing of what is on hand here: “Music like this – steeped in esthetic [sic] integrity, bathed in outward beauty and lit by inner intensity – can’t happen often enough”.

Frank Griffith is a saxophonist, arranger and educator based in Liverpool. Contact: frank@frankgriffith.co.uk

LINK: Everything Happens on Presto Music

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