Released today Purest Form concentrates the mind and stimulates the senses. The pianist and keyboardist James Francies, influenced by James Poyser and certainly relatable too for Robert Glasper fans, presents the highly personal Purest Form given family loss and a close-knit coming together musically. Francies who is also excellent in Chris Potter's Circuits trio the Houston, nowadays New York, player melts vocals into the mix with Elliott Skinner on 'Rose Water' particularly striking. The album is dedicated to James' late mother Shawana who passed away in January and features poignantly her voice especially a factor on 'Transfiguration'. James' wife Brenda narrates 'Adoration' at the beginning and very evocatively James' father who is in his mid-seventies (and also called James) reminisces about the 4th Ward in Houston which used to be pre-gentrification Freedmen's Town, the name of the excellent 11th track, his warm voice heard over his son's rolling piano lines and on which James Sr discusses movingly his own parents and early life in a very different Houston. Purest Form also includes a homage to Houston called '713' which was the first track to stream.
Producing this time after co-producing his excellent Blue Note debut Flight with Derrick Hodge this is a brave journey and one that is worth climbing on as a passenger right now. Is there one highlight? Yes. It's not necessarily the hip-hop vibe element with DJ Dahi, more the jaw dropping version of 'My Favorite Things' featuring labelmate alto saxophone star Immanuel Wilkins. Francies adds his own vocals judiciously on the album as well on Purest Form although it is his dazzling pianism that is striking first and foremost. SG
Out on Blue Note