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Sunday, March 15, 2015

CD Review: Chris McNulty - Eternal

Chris McNulty (vocals); John Di Martino (arrangements and piano); Ugonna Okegwo (bass); Gregory Hutchinson (drums) + Chamber ensemble*
(Review by Ann Alex)
Prepare to shed tears whilst listening to this CD.  This is Chris McNulty’s seventh CD since she emerged on to the international jazz scene in 1991, and it is a tribute to her son, Sam McNulty, hip-hop artist-composer Chap One, who died in 2011.  McNulty researched songbooks extensively to get the right mix of material for the album, and she has assembled an excellent set of songs.  
The CD manages to avoid being too maudlin or sentimental, probably because of the skilful arrangements and genuinely heartfelt way that the songs are sung.  The sound is lush and poignant and McNulty’s voice soars around the songs, a rich voice with just a hint of a pleasing nasal tone.  I say ‘soars around’ because she makes the tunes her own, original improvisation, sometimes cutting across the musicians, sometimes with gentle scat-like vocals.
It isn’t difficult to work out the irony of songs such as What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life on an album such as this – I found this to be one of the most moving tracks.  Then there’s Nature Boy; With Every Breath I Take; Where Is Love (Lionel Bart); and Boulevard Of Broken Dreams. There is one original song by McNulty herself, You Are There, a simple statement of love with minimal accompaniment.  The CD opens with the oddly titled The Saga Of Harrison Crabfeathers, which is in fact a very sad love song which is achingly appropriate:
‘Crying softly for the one who cannot be here
Through the rain she sees a face laughing in happy play
The face of a child, the child on a sunny day’.
The other tracks are A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing; Stardust; Yesterday I Heard The Rain; Love Came On Stealthy Fingers; On A Clear Day.  The arrangements include good solos from piano, horns, woodwinds and bass. The making of this CD must have taken courage by all concerned, and it has just struck me as by an odd coincidence, that this review will appear here on Mother’s Day.
The CD is released on Palmetto records on March 24  
Ann Alex
* Steve Newcomb (arranger); Mazz Swift, Josh Henderson, Amanda Lo (violins); Trevor New (viola); Meaghan Burke, Marika Hughes (cellos); Jodie Rottle (flutes); Ivan Barenboim (clarinets); John Morgan-Bush (French horn); Ben Wendel (bassoon); Paul Bollenback (guitar)

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