Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pete McGuinness: Voice Like a Horn

Summit Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Voice Like a Horn

Before discussing this album, a brief confession: 

I’ve always made a point of discussing music that’ll be worth your time: albums that rank as good, better and best. Anything of lesser quality is set aside. My first pass at any given CD usually involves relatively short “scans” of each track (hence this blog’s name!). Albums that make the cut then are analyzed (and enjoyed) at length, as the review is composed and written.

Didn’t happen that way this time. I was hooked during the first 16 bars of the first track, listened to the entire album without skipping anything ... and then listened to it again. Almost forgot that I was supposed to be contemplating a review.

Yep, it’s that good.

The basic format is a quartet. McGuinness plays trombone and handles vocals, and is joined by Ted Kooshian on piano, Andy Eulau on bass, and Scott Neumann on drums. Jon Gordon (alto sax and flute) and Bill Mobley (trumpet) guest on a few tracks. Six of the eight selections are from the Great American Songbook, including “Yesterdays” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” The remaining two tunes are jazz traditionals: Dizzy Gillespie’s “Birks Works” and “49th Street” (a head arrangement based on the chord structure of “Lover”). McGuinness handled all of the arrangements, except for “49th Street.”

The performances and arrangements are excellent, and everything swings like crazy. McGuinness, however, is the unique element. He not only plays great jazz trombone; he’s an exceptional male jazz vocalist ... the best to have come along in years. We’ve all enjoyed many who can really rock — guys like Joe Williams, Jimmy Rushing, Mark Murphy, Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme — but only a few have been masters of scat singing. Torme was one; Bobby McFerrin and Darmon Meader are others. 

McGuinness belongs in their company; his voice truly mimics an instrument. He brings flavor and originality to the lyrics, then takes off with innovative scat choruses that essentially add another “horn” to the combo.

The ensemble and solo work on every track is exceptional; you won’t be able to keep your fingers and feet from moving. This is an exciting, grooving experience. Let’s hope for more recording sessions — and some concert tours! — from these guys.

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