Bill Carrothers, Excelsior

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 07.28.11 in Reviews

Carrothers is that rarest of creatures — a rural jazz artist. He thrived for five years in the jazz mecca of NYC in the late ’80s and still does a fair share of high-profile gigs and recordings (check out his resume). But 20 years in a small town on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has provided a distinctive dimension to his piano sound; it is in the pace, patience and forlorn stillness of his chords and tone. And the solo piano album Excelsior — 16 evocative impressions about his boyhood hometown outside of Minnesota — is the most fully realized manifestation of that sound to date. The titles telegraph many of the moods, but for every “Amusement Park” or “Bygone Era,” there is also a “Trees,” or “Whoville” or “Bike Ride,” where nostalgia, like rural Michigan, is a countryside best rid of bucolic cliches, and suffused with the same emotional musical jumble — inexplicable blues, uplifting gospel, solemn folk and gorgeously exacting chamber music — that you find in the city. But quiet enough to hear yourself.