Greg Ward’s Rogue Parade is frothing with the smart and the impressive of Chicago’s scene – bassist (and wonderful composer in his own right) Matt Ulery, drummer Quin Kirchner, the dual guitars (always a good thing) of Matt Gold and Dave Miller and, the leader, my distant relative, saxophonist/composer Greg Ward.
“Stomping off from Greenwood” is Greg’s fourth album and features a band who’s obvious chemistry and energetic counterpoint has been forged by the the band’s month long residency at The Whistler and an extensive tour of the Midwest.
“Metropolis” stomps things off with urban verve. Each instrument strolls over and introduces himself one by one: “HI, I’m the busy snare, I live over there”, “Howdo, I’m probing bass”, “Alrite fellas, I’m pulsing guitar #1”, “Dude! I’m shimmery guitar #2”. Layers build, probing, pulsing, a spiky groove reminding me of a much less awkward, less art-sharp version of Belew-era King Crimson before Ward’s easy melodies, “Yo, alto”, bond the group, smoothing the edges. First leading us through a short rock-lite section and then into a beautiful open space where all is well and communicative, slowly building to a heart bursting zenith. Remarkable opener.
“Excerpt 1” is deep and swelling. Guitars and alto create themes while cymbals splash and envelope. Again there’s heartfelt connection but with tenderness this time. “The Contender” has no truck with tenderness. It’s dark bass pumping (RIFF!), angular guitar and alto, all quite prog with an occasional jab of the M-bases. It then steps back to give space for sax and guitar solos, both economic, effortless, lyrical and oh-so fluid before finally letting rip with Ulery/Kirchner fyah.
“The Fourth Reverie” is a broody and atmospheric release before “Let Him Live” returns to that pulsing, prodding, progging. It rocks back n forth, forth n back with a hypnotic urgency, like a meditative alarm played by shit hot musicians. I cannot wait to see this band live.
Ulery acoustically splutters the heck out of the start of “Black Woods” before bowing us into the densest, darkest bluesy woodland you’ve ever ventured into only to have light enter again via alto and guitar alternately answering all the big questions.
“Pitch Black” is wide open. 11 minutes worth. Initially considered, almost pensive, with sax and guitar doubling up before it expands with Gold/Miller bouncing off each other, one passing chords as the other dances Scofield-like, before Ward picks a melody for a while and then drops it back to the 6 stringers then eventually back to the doubled up motif. Not really sure why it ends. I guess because an elegant version of Hoagy Charmichael’s “Stardust” has to start. Ward is magnificent on this, his subtle, light-touch control is bobbed along on the band’s energetic current led by Kirchner. Beautiful.
“Sundown” is blues rock guitar shimmer and haze with Ward floating loose, handsome lines over and in between as Kirchner and Ulery push on. A ‘siren’ wails nightfall and it’s our bed time. Sweet dreams.
I couldn’t have asked for a better first review of 2019. It’s my personal remedy to this January’s unique UK blues. It’s a heady mix of cerebral, heartfelt, hopeful, exploratory and inclusive. It focuses and uplifts. Musicanship is tophole. And it has two guitars.