Purest Form

Purest Form

After the short ambient prelude “Adoration,” pianist/keyboardist James Francies (of Pat Metheny’s trio project Side-Eye) comes crashing out of the gate on his sophomore Blue Note release, Purest Form, unveiling the supremely intricate and energized “Levitate” and “Transfiguration.” Then comes the switch-up: Francies features singer Peyton on the ethereal modern soul ballad “Blown Away” and continues with Elliott Skinner on vocals for the fetchingly poppy “Rose Water.” While the bracing full-tilt virtuosity and maximalist energy resurfaces on “Where We Stand,” as well as Francies’ bold reimagining of “My Favorite Things” (featuring Blue Note labelmates Immanuel Wilkins on alto sax and Joel Ross on vibes), Purest Form has a gentler melodic side, notably on the somewhat Brad Mehldau-esque midtempo groover “713” and the tonally enigmatic “Melting” and “Oasis.” Bassist Burniss Travis and drummer Jeremy Dutton, the backbone of Francies’ 2018 debut Flight, are equally fiery and versatile here as Francies constructs a vivid sound world rife with fusion, hip-hop, and acoustic jazz influences. “Freedmen’s Town” is a category unto itself: Francies’ father delivers a compelling spoken-word history of Houston’s Fourth Ward, formerly Freedmen’s Town, as Francies, Travis, and Dutton (all Houstonians) offer up sparkling interplay in an acoustic trio mode.

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