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Natalie Cressman & Secret Garden: Unfolding (2012)

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Natalie Cressman & Secret Garden: Unfolding How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Imagine what it would be like to grow up in a household in which both parents are exceptional jazz musicians, a childhood completely immersed in live music and performance. Natalie Cressman, daughter of vocalist Sandy Cressman and trombonist Jeff Cressman, has had just such an upbringing, and her debut album Unfolding indicates that she is making the most of it. Still in her early 20s, and a student at the Manhattan School of Music with a couple of years' worth of touring with Trey Anastasio under her belt, Natalie became a fixture in the Bay Area scene by her mid-teens, gigging with Pete Escovedo
Pete Escovedo
Pete Escovedo
b.1935
percussion
, Peter Apfelbaum
Peter Apfelbaum
Peter Apfelbaum
b.1960
various
and Jai Uttal. Besides playing trombone, singing, and putting the band together, Cressman co-produced Unfolding with her father, Jeff, and composed and arranged all but three of the tracks.

Cressman's originals are quite substantial, drawing inspiration from classic jazz, fusion, Latin jazz, and funk. The result is comparable, perhaps, to the work of Snarky Puppy
Snarky Puppy
Snarky Puppy

band/orchestra
. The influence of Apfelbaum—with whom both Natalie and her father have collaborated—is also palpable throughout Unfolding, in terms of the music's polyglot rhythmic approach, and its soaring, spiritual-sounding horn harmonies. The opening track, "Flip" is a great example of this. It's a complex, multi-sectioned piece bubbling over with urgent Latin and fusion grooves and lush horn harmonies. Co-written with Adam Nash, "Skylight" is a bit sweeter, with intricate, interlaced, contrapuntal horn melodies. "Echo" is almost a ballad, with swaying 3/4- and 6/8-based rhythms, and wonderful solos by trumpeter Ivan Rosenberg and bassist Ruben Samama. "Waking" progresses from a classically-influenced, almost trance-like beginning into a languid 5/4 groove that supports excellent solos by Samama and saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown
Chad Lefkowitz-Brown
Chad Lefkowitz-Brown
b.1989
sax, tenor
. "That Kind," featuring a long solo by Apfelbaum, is the album's tour de force. While much of Unfolding seems a little dialed-back, this piece really gets out in left field, and also gives Cressman and her talented rhythm section a chance to strut their stuff.

Cressman's singing takes a back seat to her trombone playing on this disc. Besides her wordless vocals on the original compositions, she sings a couple of standards ("Honeysuckle Rose" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat") and on one of her own pieces ("Reaching for Home"). Of these, the Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
/ Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
b.1943
vocalist
collaboration is the highlight. Cressman's arrangement includes an extensive instrumental commentary topped by Rosenberg's fine trumpet solo. "Honeysuckle Rose," by contrast, gets a playful, sunny, hip-hop flavored treatment.Cressman has a fine voice: very straight and pleasantly uninflected, it has a girlish, innocent quality that recalls that of fellow Bay Area denizen (and brass / voice doubler) Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson

trumpet
.

While Unfolding is a definitive statement by a self-assured young musician, it's also the product of a well-seasoned and versatile musical mind, mature beyond her years.

Track Listing: Flip; Whistle Song; Honeysuckle Rose; Echo; Skylight; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Waking; Reaching for Home; That Kind.

Personnel: Natalie Cressman: trombone, vocals; Ivan Rosenberg: trumpet; Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: tenor saxophone; Pascal LeBoeuf: piano, Fender Rhodes; Ruben Samama: bass; Jake Goldbas: drums; Peter Apfelbaum: tenor saxophone (9).

Record Label: Cressman Music


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