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Make way for Nate Birkey, a talented trumpeter/vocalist/composer who has been honing his talents in the Santa Barbara jazz scene and is now getting the national exposure he deserves. Birkey's latest release, Shortest Day , recorded live in 2004, showcases his considerable gifts and puts him front and center among jazz's most promising musicians.
The CD is composed of eight tracks, an eclectic mix including Mingus' "Nostalgia in Times Square," the hymn "Abide with Me," "Tennessee Waltz," "You are Always on My Mind," as well as two excellent originals. The song choice gives a sense of Birkey's range. In the age-old tradition of West Coast jazz musicians, Birkey has worked extensively as a studio musician, and judging from Shortest Day he is certainly capable of soulful expression in a wide range of moods. On "Autumn Leaves" Birkey's trumpet is piercing and melancholy; on his composition "Indelibly You" he sings and soars with a joyfulness reminiscent of Dixieland and "Nostalgia in Times Square" boasts a tight hard bop front line of Birkey and tenor saxophonist Justin Claveria.
In an embarrassment of riches, in addition to Birkey's excellent trumpet work and compositional skills, he also sings. His voice has a unique quality, gentle and wistful on "Always on My Mind" and "Tennessee Waltz" and joyfully swinging on "Indelibly You." Birkey's vocals are infectious; his phrasing is spot-on and he is a master of saying much by saying little. (And if you like his singing, check out his earlier release Ballads , composed entirely of vocals.) Although still based in Santa Barbara, Birkey will be in town for a CD release party, so be sure to come out and hear him for yourself.
Track Listing: 1. Autumn Leaves
2. Tennessee Waltz
3. Indelibly You
4. Shortest Day
5. Always on My Mind
6. Abide With Me
7. Recado Bossa Nova
8. Nostalgia in Times Square
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.