Keith Pray’s most recent release, Confluence, is a serious work of heavy jazz. The saxophonist features world-class talent including Peter Tomlinson on piano, Lou Pappas on bass, Jeff “Siege” Siegel on drums and guitarist Chuck D’Aloia, who also co-produced the album and lent his compositional talents to the track “Alley Cat.” D’Aloia’s tune is like a long meditation in the vein of John Coltrane’s “After The Rain,” albeit slightly darker in mood. It is essentially a long rubato with drummer Siegel providing splashes of color rather than a steady beat.
The opening track is Pray’s tune “The Calling,” which sounds similar to Michael Brecker’s “Song For Bilbao.” This one maintains a high energy level throughout, which is perfect because that is Pray’s signature. Even the lull between solos grooves hard. Two cover tunes find themselves on the album as well. John Coltrane’s “Africa” and Jimmy Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy.” “Africa” is pretty true to the original but “Gingerbread Boy” starts off slower than any version I have ever heard and accelerates for the bridge. In the album’s liner notes it is referred to as a pitcher’s “change up.”
“Song for Katie” is one of the most beautiful, legit jazz ballads that I have heard from any local jazz talent. This one stays true to the jazz idiom and never once crosses that wavy line into smooth jazz territory. “Two Years of the Lotus Blossom” is another track that Pray wrote in tribute to his wife, and which he says “pretty much wrote itself.”
The album was recorded at the legendary NRS Studios outside Woodstock, which has also been the creative space that pros like Dave Brubeck and Chick Corea have chosen to work in in the past. This disc was also recorded in real time, rather than with countless overdubs. That process definitely gives the music a live feel that you just cannot get any other way.