Saxophonist and composer Jim Gailloreto is known for his inventive genre fusions. The nine-piece suite The Pythiad is no exception. Inspired by lesser-known heroes of Greek mythology, it features vocalist Cheryl Wilson’s charismatic singing and Coleman Gailloreto’s intriguing poetry. The lyrics are a mix of couplets and free verse, and are a superb match for the sparse and haunting music.
For instance, the tense and angular “Deucalion and Pyrrha” consists of gripping melodic shards. The words are equally crystalline “Marble ceiling scorched by smoke, stairs like rope and empty rooms, packed up like provisions.” Wilson’s agile voice meanders within the contemplative instrumental vamps. Bassist Christian Dillingham’s reverberating notes echo in the backdrop. Gailloreto’s soprano saxophone wails with pensive melancholy. Dillingham’s raindrop like thumps and lush support from the string quartet buoy Wilson as she articulates emotively, “I remember their love, put down deep roots. I remember their love, never ran dry. I remember their love, like solid ground.”
There are moments on the disc where the music hints at Andrew Lloyd Webber show tunes. On “Oracle of Delphi” for instance, Wilson’s theatrical singing and the ensemble’s symphonic overlapping phrases create vibrant drama. This is further enhanced on “Autolycus.” The latter movement named after a demi god in the Greek pantheon alternates delightfully dissonant refrains and Wilson’s eloquently spoken word lines.
The disc concludes with three unrelated pieces, one each by pianist Jimmy Rowles, bassist Jaco Pastorius and singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. Although these do not necessarily fit within the work’s thematic structure, they do not sound completely out of place given the stylistic similarity to The Pythiad.
This record is another boldly innovative statement from Gailloreto’s genre bending experiments. Even though it may not be for everyone, The Pythiad is a testament of the saxophonist’s unique expression and his singular artistic vision.