Sometimes, all it takes to feel a little finer is looking at a face – better still, into a pair of focused eyes. Violinist Billy Bang’s intense stare welcomes you as soon as the CD booklet is opened, and his words about the actual essence of peace – as encouragingly naïve as they might appear at a time in which certainties are being universally destroyed – are just like the music contained herein: precisely written, easy to identify with, heartfelt.
Gifted with one of the most beautiful (electric) violin tones around, Bang – who cites Leroy Jenkins and Ornette Coleman as influences on the instrument – wrote five of the seven tracks of this excellent album; the remaining two are renditions of Stuff Smith’s “Only Time Will Tell” and Compay Segundo’s “Chan Chan”. The band is tight and communicative, privileging intelligibility and accuracy to futile virtuosity. Every member deserves kudos: trumpeter James Zollar and pianist Andrew Bemkey’s performances pertinently complement the leader’s on all accounts, while bassist Todd Nicholson and drummer Newman Taylor-Baker constitute a reliably neat rhythm section. Percussionists Milton Cardona and Joe Gonzalez expertly add Latin flavors when required.
I vividly remember Bang’s “avant/free” period – the man has collaborated with the likes of Material, Ronald Shannon Jackson and Sonny Sharrock – but when the comfortable feeling generated by the entirety of Prayer For Peace started to affirm its power, this dissonant prattler was instantly won. At the third consecutive spin, Mr. Bang had achieved the aim at least in an individual who, as he was listening to the concentrated spirituality of the 20-minute title track, couldn’t help but remain involved by something that goes beyond a mere invocation. The greatness of true musicians lies exactly here: soothing another’s soul with their sounds. Whatever the style.