Bill Cunliffe Sextet: How My Heart Sings (2003)
Pianist Cunliffe has grabbed a Grammy nomination for his orchestral arrangements; and you hear why here. His sextet arrangements have a richness and harmonic complexity usually associated with larger ensembles. And he is the perfect guy for the job of crafting the ten Zindars songs for sextet. Zindars' melodies have a straightforward loveliness and simple charm, and a deceptive depth (sort of like Bill Evans' writing) filled with little surprises and shifting time signatures. Cunliffe takes some liberties here, showcasing the tunes with loving care and layered harmonies interspersed with well-chosen spots for some spirited soling from himself and the three horn front line, made up of reed, trombone and flugelhorn.
There is a brightness to this set, even on the ballads, a sort of crystalline quality to the atmosphere, attributable to Earl Zindars' songwriting and Bill Cunliffe's arrangements, and the ineffable zing the band gives each treatment.
If you haven't heard of Earl Zindars, this is a good place to start; and it might make you want to go back and check out some of those Bill Evans albums as well.
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Track Listing: Here's to Neil, City tune, Mother of Earl, Silverado Trail, How My Heart Sings, Return to Love, Earl's Blues, Elsa, Heads or Tails, Soiree
Personnel: Bill Cunliffe--piano; Bob Shepard--saxophone, flute, clarinet; Bobby Shew--trumpet, flugelhorn; Joe LaBarbera--drums; Bruce Paulson--trombone; Jeff D'Angelo--bass; guest: Justin Ray--flugelhorn
Record Label: Torii Records