Billy Childs: The Winds of Change

Editor's Choice

Rating: ★★★★

Record and Artist Details


Scott Colley (b)
Brian Blade (d)
Ambrose Akinmusire (t)
Billy Childs (p)


Mack Avenue Records


Media Format:


Catalogue Number:



Rec. 14-16 May 2022

The title track was originally written for Roy Hargrove and a large accompanying orchestra, but Childs' mission on this album was to rediscover his jazz roots and turn the trio of himself, Colley and Blade into a compact orchestral force to interact with the trumpet wizardry of Ambrose Akinmusire. The result is not just the vibrant reimagining of that track, but an entire album that is a triumph of improvisational and compositional interaction and musicianly interplay. From the first notes of the opener, Chick Corea's ‘Crystal Silence’ our attention is grabbed and held. Akinmusire's trumpet line fragments extraordinarily toward the end of that piece, something I’ve heard him do in concert but never with the aplomb and brilliance on show here.

Childs' aim was to produce a record in which each track – in the manner of a movie soundtrack composer – evoked an element of the Los Angeles he has lived in all his life, including the atmosphere of the city in the 1960s as well as today. In this he succeeds admirably, and interestingly he cites Kenny Wheeler's Gnu High (with Jarrett, Holland and DeJohnette) as a model of the interlinked, interactive improvisation he was after.

As a classical and jazz composer, Childs has the knack of creating a memorable theme, but he also knows how to develop (and occasionally deconstruct it) bringing us with him every step of the way. The catchy ‘Great Western Loop’ became my ear worm for a day or two after hearing it. I have the ‘End of Innocence’ in his original version somewhere on a Wyndham Hill collection, but this new interpretation glances in that direction before again embarking into a new and fresh quartet conversation. Maybe the most wistful and involving track on the whole album is Kenny Barron's ‘The Black Angel’, originally recorded with Childs’ long-term former colleague Freddie Hubbard. Somewhere in the background Hubbard may well be nodding approval. But this is a fresh, engaging and utterly enthralling new exploration of the piece. Overall, a rare treat.

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