"WHISPERS THE HEART"
Vocalist Chris McNulty is one of those immense talents deserving wider recognition.
Blessed with a pleasantly inviting voice, she sings with her heart in full throttle on the opener, "Summer Me, Winter Me," and then follows with the slow ballad "Make It Easy on Yourself." She seems so comfortable with her technique — which of course puts an audience right in her comfort zone.
Tenor saxophonist Frank Wess makes an impact guest appearance on this track. Reedman Dave Pietro turns in a lush arrangement to launch McNulty into a highly emotional treatment of "Lonely Town."
She has her own personal take on "I Should Care," switching from a softly smooth first chorus to the second with a more pronounced groove; former Portland pianist/organist Gary Versace is key in the delivery of this fine Paul Bollenback arrangement.
McNulty uses a nice mix of material with excellent sidemen performing outstanding arrangements.
"ABOVE THE CLOUDS"
Alto saxophonist Dave Glasser brings with him a jazz background with credits for being the lead alto in the Illinois Jacquet big band and then with the Count Basie band led by Frank Foster. But more importantly, he brings a pure sense of lyricism.
Backed by an excellent rhythm section of pianist Larry Ham, bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Carl Allen, Glasser extracts the melody from each standard and then returns it embellished with his own ideas.
He also handles the blues with authenticity: Witness his treatment of his own "Blues for Mat." Ham makes for an excellent sidekick on this, as well as on every other tune. Glasser seasons his program with just a dash of funk on "A Little Funky." This is a most worthy recording.
MIKE MELVOIN TRIO
Right away, the first thing the listener may hear is the resounding groove pianist Mike Melvoin, bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Ralph Penland lay down on "Long Ago and Far Away."
It's an auspicious beginning to a never-disappointing outing, featuring Melvoin's artistry and sometimes brilliant but always steady work of his rhythm makers. On "Life Is What You Make It," both Dumas and Penland take excellent solos; Penland is both appropriately understated and brief with his.
I was particularly taken with "I'll Be Seeing You" — always a favorite during wartime. Melvoin opens in solo but is soon joined by Dumas and Penland. Dumas launches into a delightful solo, setting the stage for Melvoin's emphatically rhythmic solo interspersed with some more understated Penland. It all makes for some grand listening.
Other standards include "Exactly Like You," "Giant Steps" and "Blue Skies."
ROGER KELLAWAY TRIO
What a great disc! Pianist Roger Kellaway, together with bassist Dan Lutz and guitarist Bruce Forman lead off with a very hip version of "Killer Joe."
The magic never stops as the trio turns to Duke Ellington's "Cottontail" for a nice 8:33 romp. Forman's guitar is stellar here. Kellaway reaches back for a stunning version of "Moten Swing."
"Midnight Sun," "Nuages," "52 Street Theme," "I Was Doing Alright" are all here.