Jazz CDs reviewed – January 2013

January 17, 2013

Chris McNulty – The Song That Sings You Here

Challenge CR 73341

A very welcome new release by this fine jazz singer, this album finds her in good voice with an especially attractive set of songs. Some years ago, Chris McNulty kindly spent time talking to Mike Pinfold for a book he and I were writing; this was Singing Jazz: The Singers And Their Styles. The passage of the years since then (the book was published in 1997) have not diminished the value of her remarks, among which were reflective comments on the importance for young singers to find their own voice, in particular the need for an intuitive approach to the manner in which a song is sung by those who would call themselves jazz singers. This last point is most certainly not an area in which Chris McNulty leaves any room for doubt. She is a jazz singer through and through and her work is always a vital demonstration of this virtually indefinable art.

As Chris explains in her liner notes, in July 2011 her young son died and although the songs were recorded before this grievous loss the listener finds an inevitable added resonance to the sometimes introspective mood of the album, thus bringing an almost spiritual air to the overall mood. Among the songs selected are How Little We Know, Lonely Woman, The Lamp Is Low, Last Night When We Were Young, One Less Bell to Answer, and Long Road Home – The Song That Sings You Here. The latter song is an original by the singer although, as can be seen, elsewhere she shows that she has retained her love for the songs of yesteryear, a love she remarked upon back in 1997: “I’ll never stop going back to those tunes. Originals can be beautiful but they haven’t got the everlasting power of those tunes.” Throughout this album, Chris sings with always melodic power, reading into the lyrics a considerable depth of understanding, the latter a quality that, as suggested, is made even more profound through the intrusion of real life tragedy. Her accompanying musicians are pianists Andrei Kondokov and Graham Wood, who share duties, guitarist Paul Bollenback, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Marcus Gilmore, with saxophonist Igor Butman guesting on some tracks, while guest vocalist Anita Wardell also appears. Altogether, this is an engaging, thoughtful and thought-provoking release.

 

The deep and abiding enthusiasm for jazz that has become an important part of Japanese culture is apparent in two new releases. One of these is by UoU, a cohesive quartet, very much of today. Entitled Take The 7 Train (Tippin’ TIP 112) this is mostly original music and where established themes are used they are made new through careful thought. The musicians are Takuji Yamada, who plays alto saxophone and bass clarinet, pianist Yoko Komori, guitarist Daisuke Abe, bassist Kuriko Tsugawa, and drummer Yoshifumi Nihonmatsu.

 

The other album presents the compositions and arrangements of Asuka Kakitani played by her Jazz Orchestra, an 18-piece big band of New York-based mainly American musicians. Entitled Bloom (19/8 1025), this is very much a meeting of minds. The music is melodic, thoughtful, occasionally brooding. From John O’Gallagher, Mark Eckroth, Jacob Garchik and others are some very good saxophone, piano and trombone solos, notably the latter, but it is the ensemble playing that is special.

 

As always, these releases can be found in many places, including Amazon.

 

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