“Risin’” — the third CD of young Christian Sands’ remarkable career — holds a special significance for him: “It means graduating and going on to college and adulthood in music,” says the 18 year old jazz prodigy. This young man began playing the piano at age 3, composing at age 5, and his meteoric rise in the jazz world already includes two appearances at the Grammy Awards, including an outrageous, highly publicized duet with legendary pianist Oscar Peterson.
Those who have listened to him would contend that Christian Sands has already risen to an astonishing level of musical maturity, and has been an “adult” for quite some time. This new CD more than adequately displays his extraordinary approach to his own original compositions and the works of others he chooses to interpret.
Sands is a “rising star” in the world of jazz. He possesses technique in abundance, but it perfectly matches his conception. His use of understatement accomplishes a much deeper musical goal. He takes a fresh look at the entire language of jazz: stride, swing, bebop, progressive, fusion, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban. He says, “My music is about teaching the way of jazz and keeping it alive. It’s unfortunate that the older styles, like stride, are starting to drift away.”
True to his word, Sands develops the past while providing unusual and stimulating vehicles for the present … and for the future. Musicality, sensitivity, taste and swing — hallmarks for as long as he has been playing — manifest themselves at each moment during this session.
“Sandy” was composed, according to Sands, “for [poet] Langston Hughes. I love his writing, and a character in one of his books, Sandy.” The tune is an example of Christian’s originality. Though the form of the song (AABA, 16-16-8-16) is fairly standard, Sands breaks up the A sections with an accent in an unusual place: on the 11th bar! Tenor saxophonist Bill Evans absolutely tears it up on his solo! However beneath the fiery surface, listen to Christian’s chord accompaniment. He’s “comps” perfectly for others, as well as for himself!
“So Sweet, Pt. 1” shows Sands’ deft manipulation of form and control of harmonic colors. The 16-bar A sections feature a diatonic major melody over shifting minor modal harmonies and a bass drone. This “vamp” leads to a delicious transition to an unusual 18-bar B section. Once again, listen to Sands’ imaginative comping throughout, as well as Jesse Hameen’s tasteful drumming. Trumpeter Josh Evans plays a particularly imaginative solo, full of Miles-esque trills, modal meanderings and a bright use of the high register.
Recently, Sands has been promoted and guided by Dr. Billy Taylor, whom Sands refers to as “one of the greatest innovators and teachers in jazz. It has been a lot of fun. We played together several times at the Kennedy Center and at D. C. area high schools, as well as the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program, Washington, D.C..” (By the way, he also visits with Dave Brubeck from time to time, absorbing stylistic and pianistic concepts.)