In his recording career, clarinetist Don Byron has done tributes to a daunting variety of artists such as Junior Walker, Lester Young, Raymond Scott, John Kirby and Borscht Belt comic Mickey Katz. His first CD in four years, Love, Peace, And Soul, expands that list to include gospel pioneers Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey and Sister Rosetta Tharpe and like all his previous projects, he makes his explorations sound perfectly logical and burn like nobody's business.
In his liner notes Byron makes a argument for Dorsey being the first composer to bring an African-American blues influence into religious music to create modern gospel, one of the foundations of all 20th century Black popular music, making Dorsey a monumentally important figure. Byron and his quintet put forth a hell of a compelling case for this, performing Dorsey's songs with all out gusto. D. K. Dyson sings the house down while Byron shows his prowess on tenor and baritone sax as well as his usual clarinets and the entire band makes a holy stomping noise. Most of the pieces are gospel based but there are also side trips into blues, country and rock and roll and an Eddie Harris funk tune, "Sham Time" fits into the program perfectly. Besides the excellent work of the quintet, Dean Bowman's powerful pipes and a horn section add to a swinging version of Dorsey's "Consideration" and Brandon Ross and Vernon Reid contribute shredding guitar solos elsewhere.
It's been way too long since Don Byron had some new music out. Now with this triumphant reappearance on a new label, Savoy, hopefully we'll be hearing what his fertile mind comes up with a lot more frequently.