David Gilmore is one of the most sought-after sidemen on the New York scene, performing and recording with a list of luminaries representing both the pop and jazz worlds—from Joss Stone and Melissa Etheridge to Wayne Shorter and David Sanborn—and he is also a veteran of Steve Coleman’s M-Base Collective and fusion innovators Lost Tribe. While Gilmore’s style and tone are firmly rooted in the work of traditional players such Benson, Montgomery, and Martino, they are by way of soul and R&B, with hints of various African and other ethnic stylists. And, when I saw him perform electric-period Miles music with Dave Douglas, he evoked the fire (and distortion) of early McLaughlin and even Hendrix. On this follow-up to his hard-grooving and shamefully underrated 2001 solo debut, Ritualism, Gilmore expands upon that disc’s harmonically and metrically diverse approach, while managing to keep the music from ever becoming too outside—largely due to his highly melodic playing and warm and inviting tone. Backed by bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, with notable contributions from saxophonist Ravi Coltrane (and vocals on one piece by Claudia Acuna), Gilmore’s playing continuously sails from height to height, integrating lightning-fast runs and arpeggios with rhythmically sophisticated chord melodies, often within the same passage. Hopefully, Unified Presence will bring Gilmore the same recognition from the “larger world” that he has enjoyed among his peers for years.—Barry Cleveland
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