Kirk MacDonald Quintet | Vista Obscura

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Vista Obscura

by Kirk MacDonald Quintet

Juno Award winning saxophonist/composer & nine-time nominee Kirk MacDonald hosts legendary American pianist Harold Mabern alongside Canadian greats bassist Neil Swainson, drummer André White, and saxophonist Pat LaBarbera.
Genre: Jazz: Mainstream Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Lonnie's Lament (feat. Harold Mabern, Neil Swainson & Andre White)
8:55 $0.99
2. Vista Obscura (feat. Harold Mabern, Neil Swainson & Andre White)
6:40 $0.99
3. There but for the Grace Of... (feat. Harold Mabern, Neil Swainson & Andre White)
9:30 $0.99
4. Calendula (feat. Harold Mabern, Neil Swainson & Andre White)
6:38 $0.99
5. You See but You Don't Hear (feat. Harold Mabern, Pat Labarbera, Neil Swainson & Andre White)
8:36 $0.99
6. Naima (feat. Harold Mabern, Pat Labarbera, Neil Swainson & Andre White)
13:37 $0.99
7. The Mill Dam (feat. Harold Mabern, Pat Labarbera, Neil Swainson & Andre White)
7:42 $0.99
8. Walkaround (feat. Harold Mabern, Neil Swainson & Andre White)
6:12 $0.99
9. Mira Nights (feat. Harold Mabern, Neil Swainson & Andre White)
8:48 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Juno Award Winner Jazz Album of the Year: Solo 2015.

"Kirk MacDonald is a JUNO winning jazz saxophonist from Toronto who composes much of his own material. His latest album, Vista Obscura, is a beautiful uptempo ride of sax-led instrumental jazz with piano (Harold Mabern), bass (Neil Swainson), and drums (André White). Fellow saxophonist Pat LaBarbera appears as a special guest, and you can hear somewhat of a duelling saxophone extravaganza on a few tracks. Robust flavour replete with pep and zeal, this works equally for late night cruises and afternoon jives." Canadian Music Blog. November 17, 2014

"Last year, Toronto tenor saxophonist Kirk MacDonald invited a special guest, New York-based trumpeter Tom Harrell, to pitch in on his superb album Symmetry. MacDonald, whose composing and arranging talents are often overlooked given the eloquence and energy of his improvising, crafted a perfect setting for Harrell, playing to his strengths with harmonically rich contemporary originals.

I offer this recap to help highlight MacDonald’s modus operandi with his late 2014 release Vista Obscura. This time out, the American guest star is jazz piano elder statesman, Harold Mabern, who at 78 has almost two and a half decades on MacDonald. Again, MacDonald has been the soul of hospitality, aligning the program to Mabern’s playing. The self-taught, Memphis-born legend is a blues-based player with a knack for driving, minor-key, modal playing, and Vista Obscura steers the music into Mabern’s wheelhouse.

So, the opener on MacDonald’s CD is a romp through John Coltrane’s Lonnie’s Lament, swung energetically, as Joe Lovano did on his Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard album. In addition to MacDonald and Mabern, bassist Neil Swainson and Montreal drummer Andre White — a spot-on pairing although they live in different cities — provide crisp, centred propulsion.

Coltrane’s mid-period music is a guiding theme elsewhere on the disc too, most explicitly on an extended version of Naima and on MacDonald’s composition You See But You Don’t Hear, a charging straight-eighths tune that has Impressions at its foundation. On both tracks, MacDonald shares the limelight with another guest, his fellow post-Coltrane saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, who enlarges the band to a quintet and doubles the CD’s dose of muscular tenor playing.

LaBarbera also blows fiercely on The Mill Dam, a bossa-ish minor blues. In the same spirit is the quartet tune There But For The Grace Of…, Mabern’s stirring song for the homeless that finds great dignity in the sound of the blues." Ottawa Citizen - Peter Hum, January 16, 2015

"This CD is a collection of nine smooth tunes, some sultry, some syncopated. Kirk MacDonald has assembled an ensemble of five seasoned musicians, including Mr. MacDonald on tenor saxophone, Harold Mabern on piano, Neil Swainson on bass, André White on drums, and Pat LaBarbera (on three tracks) on tenor sax. Six tracks are original compositions, two are by John Coltrane, and one is by Mr. Mabern. Each composition exudes nuanced tonalities and generous solo riffs. The three tracks with duo tenor saxes are quite compelling, with the bass in unison as well as divergent tonal conversation.

Notable tracks:

#3 – There But for the Grace Of… – Composed by Harold Mabern. Pianist Harold Mabern has composed this lovely tune, and he introduces it with moody ambiance. Quickly, Kirk MacDonald seizes the theme and brings out its vitality and verve, before handing it back to Mr. Mabern. Neil Swainson on bass and André White on drums provide solid support, as Mr. Mabern picks up the tempo with a jiving, jumping tune, with spinning trills and sassy, edgy chords. Drums and bass expand, but never overwhelm the lead piano. This is definitely a tune that deserves a live concert, with Mr. MacDonald taking his own rollicking riff, with brassy panache.

#4 – Calendula – Composed by Kirk MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald’s sax opens this track with billowy bluesy yearning. Magnifying the bluesy aura, Mr. Swainson is showcased in a deep, midnight-styled, bass solo. The advantage of a streamlined ensemble is that solos and duos abound. That was the case here, with a sax-piano duet on the heels of the bass interlude. The piano picks up the theme, with brushes and drums in soft backdrop, before the sax plays the track out.

#6 – Naima – Composed by John Coltrane. This renowned tune, a ballad Coltrane had dedicated to his wife, has been reviewed on these pages in various interpretations. On this album, the track opens with both saxophonists, Mr. MacDonald and Pat LaBarbera, in an uncluttered duo for two minutes, before piano, bass, and drums provide elegant accompaniment. Coltrane’s mesmerizing tribute piece is lovingly revitalized by this masterful quintet. An extended, thematic sax solo draws the listener in, with magnetizing melancholy.

#9 – Mira Nights – Composed by Kirk MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald opens this track with a smooth melody, backed mainly by piano harmonies, before raising the bar with an edgy interlude. After Mr. Mabern twists the theme a bit on his keyboard, the sax returns with a dusk-imbued finale, evocative of late summer moonlight. I recommend listening to this album with a glass of fine wine to relax into its subtle vibe. " Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower, November 14, 2015



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