On the Verge of a Promise
Music and faith are the twin passions that are, it seems, destined to be thoroughly entwined. They certainly are so in my life. Musically, my tastes have always wandered into, across and through many genres and styles. I was raised on classical music in early years, then wandered through pop into progressive rock and onward to jazz - first of a fusion style, but lately going back in time to the creative explosion of the late 50s and early 60s. What I have always loved in music, whatever the style, is when the players are clearly giving it their all. Yet, sheer technique has never been enough for me. If there's no feeling, no emotion, then there's no point. Christianity is much the same. If we don't give it our all, it's not worth doing, and if there's no feeling, no emotion, then it's pointless. Paul wrote that if there is no love, then anything we might do in the name of Christianity is worthless. I must agree. I will also say that faith is not something to be tucked away except on Sundays and special occasions, but is supposed to inform everything we do. It is to be applied in raising a family, in pursuing work, and most assuredly it is to shape and color our artistic expression. For "On the Verge of a Promise" I have surrounded myself with players of exceptional talent and taken them along on an emotional journey of faith with me. Each of the songs in this collection finds it's meaning from the life of Caleb, seeks to tell the untold story of his life, although mostly without words. They are at once songs to be thoroughly enjoyed and songs to be contemplated. Each song pursues it's piece of the story in it's own unique style, never quite preparing you for what follows, yet always connecting. "Where's Caleb" interweaves two different themes with guitar work in vocals predominant. The first is pure electric fusion: full of fire and energy, a battle cry of sorts. The second is a more peaceful, acoustic theme. Peaceful, but never at rest. Driving rock rhythms trade off with desert percussions as the two themes weave in and out, until they have converged, melded together into something stronger than the fire of battle, more settled than peace that has never been tried. "Abandoned Fields" explores the frustration of hope deferred. It features a moody tenor sax exploration in a four-piece setting. Have you ever seen the prize within your reach only to have to turn and walk away from it? That's the mood of this song. It's about knowing the prize is there, knowing that if you had one chance to grab hold of it, nothing could prevent you from making the prize yours, but not having that chance. It's about circumstances beyond your control, about having to do the right thing, even when it doesn't seem right. Yet, always, there is the understanding that the prize that was promised is promised still. It will just require some perseverance. Thus, the next title. "Perseverance" opens with a haunting, unaccompanied tenor sax. It is the cry of long years waiting. Caleb had to wander the desert for forty years, always knowing the promise would yet come to him, yet always seeing loss around him. However, this song brings us to the end of those forty years, the dawning of awakened hope, and the mournful cry of waiting is supplanted by energetic celebration. The time has come! "Tumblin' the Walls" features a five-piece band enjoying a high-energy blues. As one might surmise from the title, the setting is Jericho, and everybody's ready to go. The rhythm section really drives this one along as sax, trumpet and keyboards take their turns at the fore. More than any other in the collection, this song was thoroughly transformed in the course of recording. Originally named for seven shifts in the bass line, the song grew to better fit the scene it depicts. It moves from that high-energy exuberance of the opening, into a more meditative mood - a rest stop during the long march around the city - and returns to that exuberant theme once more. Anticipation builds as the seventh circuit completes and down come the walls! A New Orleans-style celebration takes us out as Caleb and company leave the fallen city behind. "Lament" takes us into the camp after the first attempt on Ai for another fusion exploration. Three mourners are presented in the voices of an electric guitar, an alto sax, and a vocalist. These three pass to one another as the rhythm section takes us across a progression of three sections. While the mood of the lament is always there, hope is not lost, for the promise remains. One cannot mourn without hope making itself felt, and so it is here. The emotions shift from sorrow for what has passed, to a certainty that life goes on, and a hopefulness for what must surely lay ahead. "Ai Spy" is built atop Afro-Latin percussions; a relaxed and extended exploration of a theme in three movements. The atmosphere is full of mystery and suspense. One never knows what might lie hidden in the undergrowth. The initial defeat that met the army at Ai came as a surprise to them. Their victory in the second attempt came not as a surprise but by surprise. Pretty much everybody gets a solo or two before the song is over, piano and tenor sax most predominantly. The many moods of the solo work are reflective of the many moods of war. "Give It All" sums up the story told by the rest in a simple ballad. Through all that has gone before, we have seen what Caleb faced and how he faced it. This song takes us to the fulfillment of that promise he had waited for, and then beyond the fulfillment, where we can see what he did with his prize. Having heard his story, the song asks, "What would you do?"