2009-10 Folklife Apprenticeship Award recipient
Lafayette Gilchrist is a D.C.-born, Baltimore-based self-taught pianist/composer whose playing rings with influences that span nearly a century of African American vernacular music—from stride piano and funk to go-go and hip hop.
Gilchrist taught himself piano while attending the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). He has since fronted his own group, and gone on to play alongside such luminaries as David Murray. Through the Maryland Traditions program, he apprenticed under saxophonist Carl Grubbs, a student of John Coltrane’s. He has been a master artist in this program as well.
Gilchrist is a polymath of jazz performance; one of his solo sets often connects music separated by decades through a process of free association. Echoes of Thelonious Monk or Baltimore’s own Eubie Blake can butt right up to notes from Motown and the go-go of his D.C. upbringing with unquestionable ease. (Chuck Brown, the father of go-go, practiced within earshot of his aunt’s home). Perhaps because he started playing when he was nearly an adult, his style, at once heady and fun, fluid and funky, is a lilting dance across the keyboard that taps into jazz’s vast cultural history.