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Nicole McCabe: Mosaic


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Nicole McCabe: Mosaic
Alto saxophonist Nicole McCabe's Mosaic is produced by guitarist Jeff Parker, among whose other plus points is his relationship with International Anthem (IA), the Chicago-based label which has brought us Makaya McCraven, Jaimie Branch, Irreversible Entanglements and Ruth Goller, among other artists of note. Parker has released two albums on the label and is heard on all three of McCraven's albums for them. It is worth keeping on the radar any musician linked with IA, because since the mid-2010s it has been recording some of America's (and more recently Britain's) most vibrant, outward-looking, humanistic and socially relevant jazz. It may be a coincidence that as an abbreviation IA is a reversal of AI, but it is an appropriate going on cosmic coincidence.

Ghost Note, which has released Mosaic, is another label on the right side of the barricades. So the auguries are set fair for McCabe's third album and label debut. On it, she fronts a quartet completed by bassist Logan Kane (her partner in life and music, a Ghost Note artist in his own right, and the label's David Binney's first-call bassist), pianist Julius Rodriguez and drummer Tim Angulo, both new to her lineups. Trumpeter Aaron Janik and trombonist Jon Hatamiya fill out the ensemble on two tracks, and Parker joins for a third.

Mosaic is McCabe's most assured album to date, though Landscapes (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2022) was no wallflower. As before, one of the principal delights is purely and simply her sound, which is as emotionally expressive as it is technically accomplished and is, as Patrice Rushen (one of McCabe's tutors at the University of Southern California) observed on the 2022 album's liner notes, "full and rich" in all registers. The most noticeable development is the strength of McCabe's composing. She wrote all eight tunes here and they have a striking, singular character. The opener, "Force Of Good," on the YouTube below, sets the stage.

Pianist Rodriguez is another pleasure. His last own-name release, Let Sound Tell All (Verve, 2022), on which he played piano, Hammond B3, synths, Rhodes and drums, took in jazz, gospel, classical, R&B, hip-hop, electronica and recording-studio-as-instrument. On Mosaic, Rodriguez plays piano (and a little Rhodes), sticks to in-the-tradition jazz, takes plenty of solos and nails it all.

Meanwhile, Mosaic is on the cusp of 3.5 and 4 stars. It gets 3.5 to allow for upscaling on future albums, because the signs are that McCabe has barely got started.

Also released in May 2024, What Is My Porpoise? (Dox Holland), the third album by McCabe and Kane's out-there duo, Dolphin Hyperspace, where sax and bass jostle with synths and dance beats. Aqueous psychedelic-jazz duos and cosmic coincidences seem to be a thing. Item: Jaimie Branch and drummer Jason Nazary's Anteloper duo's Pink Dolphins (International Anthem, 2022), produced by Jeff Parker. Which is where we came in.

Track Listing

Force Of Good; Architect; Times Apart; Human Cycles; End Of Spring; Tight Grip; Walking Statue; Derecske.


Additional Instrumentation

Julius Rodriguez: piano, Rhodes; Jeff Parker: electric guitar (6); Jon Hatamiya: trombone (1, 8); Aaron Janik: trumpet (1, 8).

Album information

Title: Mosaic | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Ghost Note

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