A propitious return to Blue Note Records, Born to Sing: No Plan B is one of the most inspired and accessible albums of singer/songwriter Van Morrison's storied career. It would not be appropriate or accurate to draw direct comparisons to Moondance (Warner Bros., 1970), His Band & The Street Choir (Warner Bros., 1970) or Tupelo Honey (Warner Bros., 1971), but it is fair to say this is comparable work, albeit in a more mature musical and emotional context.
In keeping with the title of the album as a statement of purpose, "Open the Door (To Your Heart)" sounds like nothing so much as a invocation of Morrison's muse as well an invitation to become immersed in the power of the music, with its easy flowing rhythm, prominent Hammond B3 organ and tasty horn section. The equally relaxed "Goin' Down to Monte Carlo." is indicative of the wisdom The Belfast Cowboy demonstrated by, in his role of producer, choosing to record this album with the same core band throughout; bassist Paul Moore and percussionist Jeff Lardner, in particular, display an intuitive grasp of the nuances of Morrison's singing as well as original material such as the title song.
Morrison's own presence on guitar, piano and sax probably cannot be underestimated in focusing the band's fluid performance. All the musicians fall into the motion set by the frontman on "End of the Rainbow," where the author ponders the realities of economics, personal and otherwise. Morrison's only a bit less forgiving, though equally clever (and sly) on "If In Money We Trust." It is thus little wonder he sounds so genuinely accepting on "Close Enough for Jazz."
The beauty of Born to Sing: No Plan B, however, is that its verbal expressions are reinforced through marriage to the music and, in turn, by the pungent playing. In an extended instrumental intro to "Close Enough for Jazz," led by guitarist Dave Keary, the musicians sound equally efficient and polished, never merely going through the motions. No doubt that's because the arrangements leave just enough room for them all to display their chops, as Morrison himself does vocally on "Mystic of the East." In addition, the recorded sound is both clear and resonant, without a hint of the sterility that a recording studio can sometimes inflict.
Even as Van Morrison continues to create his own personal language with songs such as "Retreat and View," he still returns to the blues of "Pagan Heart"; while it may not plumb the hypnotic trance-like depths of such numbers as "Cypress Avenue" or "Almost Independence Day," it's not far from it. Yet, this man is no more anxious to repeat himself now than in his commercial heyday, so, if that gutsy tune says anything, appropriately followed by "Educating Archie" to close the album on a provocative topical note, it's that Van Morrison has achieved the ever so difficult task of bringing practical wisdom back from the mystic into which he has so often traveled.
Track Listing: Open The Door (To Your Heart); Going Down to Monte Carlo; Born To Sing; End Of
Rainbow; Close Enough For Jazz; Mystic Of The East; Retreat And View; If In Money
Trust; Pagan Heart; Educating Archie.
Personnel: Van Morrison: vocals, alto saxophone, piano; Paul Moran: piano, Hammond organ,
trumpet; Dave Keary: guitar; Paul Moore: bass; Jeff Lardner: drums, percusion; Alistari
White: trombone; Chris White: tenor saxophone.
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds. I love how jazz can involve musicians who may have never met each other can coming together and making incredible music by referring to the Great American Songbook and musicians who have been playing together for years, who have a deep connection and who explore and create original music that is at the cutting edge of musical innovation in every sense. Performing jazz music requires a virtuosity and technique that only strict discipline can teach as well as a spontaneity and playfulness that reflects the simple folk roots of the music.
I was first exposed to jazz as a student in college. Only knowing I wanted to play guitar, I enrolled in an applied music program that focused on Jazz rhythm section playing. The subsequent journey that I have been on since the time that I enrolled in that class has helped me grow not only as a musician but more so as a person.