Across the years, vocalist Shannon Gunn's raison d'être was the stage. A mainstay of the Canadian jazz scene for several decades, both as an influential educator and performer, she staked her claim in front of countless audiences and acquired plenty of admirers in the process. But when this respected musician passed away in July of 2020, there was little left behind to document the kind of beauty she delivered on a regular basis. Gunn never released an album under her own name during her lifetime, so this offering serves as both a posthumous corrective and a memorializing debut.
On A Mountain, recorded in 2002, finds Gunn fronting an A-list combo, featuring pianist (and lifelong friend) Renee Rosnes, bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Billy Drummond, and adding several guests to the rostertrumpeter Brad Turner and tenor saxophonist Pat La Barbera on five tracks apiece, and percussionist Rick Lazar on one. The program presents nine numbersone Rosnes gem, three of the leader's originals, five canonical coversand each leaves a lasting impression. Opening on her own "From You," Gunn proffers sophisticated balladry with supreme class. Then she tackles "Carla's Blues" (a.k.a. Carla Bley's "Sing Me Softly of the Blues"), enhancing the ultramarine undercurrents in the song and offering space to the horns; dials it back for Rosnes' "In The Moment," which finds Turner and the composer sharing the spotlight; works a swing scene on the old chestnut "Wild Is Love," fully investing herself in the lyrics and briefly putting wordless vocals on display; and reaches the set's midpoint with Broadway-turned-jazz classic "I've Grown Accustomed To His Face," reimagined as an intimate duo performance with Swainson.
The four numbers that follow prove just as inviting as those that precede them. The Gunn-penned title track, a waltz which capers and soars, is moving in more ways than one. Antonio Carlos Jobim's "A Felicidade" finds the quartet bouncing over to Brazil for a bit of fun (which includes Lazar's low-mixed percussion). "Mean Joe," the last of the leader's written contributions, takes inspiration from Thelonious Monk and his musical dialect. And Cole Porter's "Everything I Love" closes things out in serious style. An album that speaks both to life's impermanence and fine art's longevity, On A Mountain stands tall in every way.
From You; Carla's Blues; In The Moment; Wild Is Love; I've Grown Accustomed To His Face; On a Mountain; A Felicidade;
Mean Joe; Everything I Love.
African Jazz Beyond Jazz Big Band Blues Brazilian Classical Dixieland / New Orleans / Swing Electronica Free Improv / Avant-Garde Fringes of Jazz Funk / Groove Fusion / Progressive Rock Hot Jazz Jam Band Latin Lounge / Exotica Modern Jazz R&B / Soul Straight-ahead (Bop, Hard bop, Cool) Vocal