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Pat LaBarbera Kirk MacDonald Quartet with Adam Nussbaum & Kieran Overs: Silent Voices

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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The oxymoronic title of Silent Voices belies and simultaneously validates interesting things about this recording. Far from silent in its artistic message, it is an intelligent, evocative, and brilliantly communicative effort. Its "voices" dominate, ring loud, and are intensely passionate. Most stentorian, they emanate from deep within the respective creative wellsprings of these four superior performers.

Pat LaBarbera Kirk MacDonald Quartet and Kirk MacDonald, both esteemed woodwind men (and colleague professors at Toronto's Humber College), show that their respective jazz chops are in outstanding order throughout and they also offer original compositions of depth and tantalizing complexities. The ensemble and solo work here is nothing short of, well, name your superlative. The interplay between the two front men is umbilical and non-competitive. Their work with bassist Overs and drummer Nussbaum—there's no pianist—is superb. The lack of a piano adds to the interaction the Toronto Tenors have with Overs and Nussbaum. This is a textbook lesson on jazz intra-group rapport and creative communication.

The album intrigues from Cut One. "Days of Old" is a slow-moving elegiac effort which grows deeply melancholic. "Walk the Talk" is struttin' sax stuff. Hard. Masculine. Driving. "We Three" is a freer, slow-drawing tone painting. "Messing with Messiaen" is another pounding cooker with lots of exotic, pentatonic "plumbing." The title tune, "Silent Voices" is a stone heart-wrencher —a slow, beautiful black and white scene depicting a sad aria of longing souls. "Get Happy" is a quirky-jerky jaunt. "Manhattan Getaway" is a fierce burner with the two sly foxes chasing young rabbits. "Sideways" is an M. C. Escher-like walk through melody and chord —think post-Modern Monk. "Baby Blue" is a straight-ahead "Melancholy Baby" contrafact. "22nd Street Waltz" is an endless lilting wind-blown moebius-like ribbon of "He says—He says." "The Hang"—it's an "I've Got Rhythm" variant —burns as if Fred and Wilma Flintstone were throwing acid around. A "Days of Old" second take returns to neatly bookend the session. Actually, a very nice production touch.

Silent Voices is an impactful, stimulating effort from a quartet of musicians whose passion for the art, their instruments, and their colleagues is palpable. The work has so much "weight" that these voices will resonate both initially and on many repetitive listenings. And, it screams so very, very loudly.

Track Listing: Days of Old; Walk the Talk; We Three; Messin' with Messiaen; Silent Voices; Message to Andre; Manhattan Getaway; Sideways; Baby Blue; 22nd Street Waltz; The Hang; Days of Old (Take 2).

Personnel: Pat LaBarbera: tenor and soprano saxophones; Kirk MacDonald: tenor and soprano saxophones; Kieran Overs: bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums.

Title: Silent Voices | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Jazz Compass

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