Behn Gillece ‘Parallel Universe’ CD (Posi-Tone) 4/5

The fourth-album on Posi-Tone from New York vibist Behn Gillece is an impressively and consistently strong straight-ahead modern jazz record.
Gillece’s compositional skills are to the fore, all the tunes are originals and it’s easy to hear his influences here. Definitely Bobby Hutcherson, especially on the slightly freer tunes ‘Eviscerate’ and ‘Downpour’ which took me back to about 1963 and the classic records with Jackie McClean.
The Blue Note influence is there throughout, ‘Break the Ice’, ‘Parallel Universe’ and the blistering ‘Alice’s Journey’ offer a modern take on the Messengers with Rudy Royston taking on the Blakey role allowing the rest of the band space to drop some fiercely inventive solos.
‘Smoke Screen’ is straight out funky, it seems simple with drums and vibes laying down the groove before Art Hirahara’s very slinky fender solo draws you in and suddenly It’s 1974 and Dave Pike is in the room.
Gillece won a Downbeat Rising Star award in 2018 and I think it’s as much for his skills as a writer as it is as a performer. ‘Bossa for R.M’ and ‘Ready for Tomorrow’ are both gorgeous gentle Bossa Novas and ‘Shadow of the Flame’ is a tough and swinging piece of slightly Latin Jazz.
‘Candle in the Dark’ is the closest we get to a ballad, it’s a brooding, impressionistic piece featuring fine solos from Gillece and Hirahara. ‘Evening Glow’ is a beautifully crafted, slow building modal waltz which highlights the technical abilities of a fantastic band all playing in harmony to bring out the best in each other. The rhythm section is perfect here not least David Wong. His delicate and sensitive bass solo makes this tune a real highlight of the album.
There is nothing truly innovative here, this band is not pushing the boundaries and exploring the future of jazz, However, they are wonderfully gifted musicians, playing beautifully written, richly textured and extremely memorable tunes and for those reasons they really deserved to be heard.

Nick Schlittner