Album Review, Atlanta
This Mélange has many colors, the album
seems to breathe the air of wide open spaces and boundless possibilities
Dean McNeill has subtitled Mélange "New
Music for Trumpet and Piano." The key word here is "new,"
for in this album McNeill and several of his friends explore the
borderland where jazz and classical genres meet and coexist happily.
Perhaps it is fitting that McNeill himself teaches at the University
of Saskatchewan, in the Canadian prairie province of that name,
for as with a prairie, Mélange seems to breathe the air
of wide open spaces and boundless possibilities.
Fortunately, the trumpet, McNeill's
instrument, is equally at home in both the jazz and the classical
media, swimming freely in both streams without losing any
of its character.
On this album he has two superb pianists as
partners, Bonnie Nicholson in the classical pieces and Jon Ballantyne
in the jazz tracks. The classical pieces, which seem to grow more
noticeably jazz-inflected as we get further into the program,
are, in order, Allan Gililand's grandly imposing Concerto
for Trumpet (1993), Elizabeth Raum's wide-ranging Variations
for Trumpet and Piano (2006), which is her seamlessly imaginative
re-writing of an original work for flute and piano, and David
McIntyre's intriguing Sonata for Trumpet (1990), whose movements
are entitled "Mystery-Game-Mystery-Game." The last
classical piece, Aria for Trumpet (2006) by David Kaplan, lifts
us up and carries us off, as an aria should do.
The jazz numbers, interspersed with the classical,
are richly varied in style, mood and harmony. They include original
compositions, free improvisations, and a pair of evergreen jazz
standards. The title of McNeill's Fall in may sound like
an army sergeant's command, but the intimate mood created
by his trumpet lets us know that "falling in love"
is what the piece is really about. Fluze Blues is a deliciously
quirky improv based on the 12-bar blues form of that name (and
not on the fact that Dean was in fact sick with the flu when recording
the jazz portion of the program, something you would never guess
from the smart inflections and sweetly glowing tones that he cultivates).
Spacious, Restless World, and Outergate were improvised during
the jazz sessions by McNeill and Ballantyne and named after the
fact. The title of the last-named seems appropriate, as it is
the most outré of the three in its flavorful dissonances.
But each of the three does a bit of envelope-pushing in its own
way, as does McNeill's composition Intro (2007).
McNeill and Ballantyne go back to the Forties
for two jazz standards, Billy Eckstine's I Want to Talk
about You (1940), which seems new and refreshing to each new generation
of musicians and jazz fans who discover it, and the Jack Lawrence/Walter
Gross Tenderly (1946), a sentimental favorite that never seems
to outstay its welcome no matter how often we've heard it.
The program concludes with a charming Lullaby,
which McNeill describes as having been co-written with his daughter
Phoebe Deanne McNeill when her mother Jennifer was recovering
from her delivery on May 17, 2007. Since Phoebe was still no more
than five months old when McNeill recorded the jazz tracks on
October 15-16, she must have been precocious indeed! Whatever
means Phoebe used to communicate her part of the collaboration,
Lullaby is the real thing - straight from the heart, as all good
jazz must be.
< Back to Latest
News & Articles page