Drawing inspiration from the majestic red rock formations of New Mexico and the mystical Hebrides Islands of Scotland, jazz pianist and composer Bill Carter has written twenty-two songs without words. Or, to be more precise, psalms without words. The tracks on his newly-released two-CD set are in fact instrumental jazz interpretations of several ancient psalms from the Hebrew Scriptures, played by Carter and the immensely talented Presbybop Quartet.
Among the songs are “Haunted Landscape,” a composition born of the high desert setting of New Mexico’s Ghost Ranch and Psalm 63; “Iona Morning,” inspired by an island retreat center in Scotland and Psalm 104; and the New Orleans-spiced “Everybody Dance,” Carter’s response to the invitation to dance in the last chapter of the Book of Psalms.
The composer’s creativity is spurred not only by natural beauty and encounters with the holy, but by the universe of jazz greats with whom he and his Presbybop musicians have played over the years: Dave Brubeck, Phil Woods, Gerry Mulligan, Herbie Hancock, Natalie Cole, and Bob Brookmeyer to name a few.
Not content to imitate their jazz elders and peers, these Presbybop disciples swing their own new songs in fresh, passionate, even inspiring tracks that feed the listener’s own retreat of soul and spirit.
The musicians who bring these “Psalms Without Words” to life are Bill Carter, piano; Al Hamme, sax and clarinet; Jeff Stockham, trumpet and French horn; Tony Marino, bass; Ron Vincent, drums; Shawn McGloin, bass; Tom Whaley, drums; and Steve Gilmore, bass.
“Psalms Without Words” can be heard and purchased through most major internet sites and the band's website. Available separately is “Listening for Selah: Psalms Without Words Live,” a DVD that includes Bill Carter and the Presbybop Quintet in concert at the Scranton Jazz Festival, as well as a documentary about the making of the 2-CD set.