For the past two years, few improvisation units have been as omnipresent in the D.C. area as Heart of the Ghost. For good reason: The trio of alto saxophonist Jarrett Gilgore, bassist Luke Stewart, and percussionist Ian McColm is something of a trinity of the finest free jazz improvisers in the region. If you’ve seen Heart of the Ghost in concert, then you know—Gilgore, Stewart, and McColm’s performances feel like a kind of séance, with the trio locked into a musical conversation with one another. It’s a language that has a “you had to be there” feel to it, which would seemingly make it difficult to translate onto recordings.
Emphasis on would: The trio just dropped their first proper recording—a self-titled tape on McColm’s own Pidgeon Records—and it captures the magic that makes Heart of the Ghost such a compelling trio to experience live. Though Gilgore’s skronked-out sax wailings anchor the tape’s two 13-minute tracks, no one part is greater than the sum of the whole. McColm’s inventive percussion techniques feel like a rhythm from another world, and Stewart—easily one of the most prolific and talented bassists in the region, if not the entire country—takes his instrument to new dimensions. Together, Heart of the Ghost’s vibes fits into the lineage of free jazz established by greats like Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, and Archie Shepp. Dive in.
You can order Heart of the Ghost’s S/T tape here. The band is currently on a spring tour through the midwest.