jazz

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - John McBeath

Eter­nal Chris McNulty Pal­metto

There are two back­sto­ries to this new re­lease, the sev­enth al­bum from vo­cal­ist Chris McNulty, an Aus­tralian artist who has been based in New York for al­most 28 years.

The most poignant story is that the al­bum cel­e­brates the life of the singer’s son. Sam McNulty was bet­ter known as hip-hop artist and com­poser Chap One, who blended hip hop with jazz and other styles of mu­sic. He died sud­denly in 2011. His mother notes that the time since that event has been the hard­est of her life.

The sec­ond point that should be made is that in an at­tempt to start afresh, McNulty is mov­ing back to Aus­tralia this month and will be based in Mel­bourne.

Eter­nal is a su­perb amal­ga­ma­tion of a Bell award-win­ning vo­cal­ist, a cham­ber ensem­ble or­ches­trated by Bris­bane pi­anist and ar­ranger Steve New­comb, and a jazz quin­tet, ar­ranged and led by pi­anist John di Martino, who adds sev­eral ap­pro­pri­ate so­los and who also worked with McNulty on her 2005 al­bum Dance

De­li­cioso.

The songs are mostly clas­sics, some not so well known, plus a McNulty orig­i­nal. The opener, The Saga of Har­ri­son

Crabfeath­ers, is a not of­ten heard song with per­fectly suit­able lyrics of lament, exquisitely de­liv­ered; it in­cludes a soft word­less pas­sage, a deeply mov­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, as are all of these heart­felt songs.

What are You Do­ing the Rest of Your Life takes on an ethe­real qual­ity as the cham­ber ensem­ble of strings and wood­winds

un­der­scores McNulty’s el­e­men­tal out­pour­ing and Mat Jo­drell’s trum­pet brings a solo of cos­mic in­ten­sity.

Star­dust, Na­ture Boy, On a Clear Day, Where

is Love — in­deed all 12 of these songs are el­e­gantly pro­duced and sung with McNulty’s uniquely emo­tive vo­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tion, in­clud­ing an im­pres­sive up­per-register reach.

The fi­nal two tracks reach a high point of poignancy: With Ev­ery Breath I Take adds a lit­tle-heard verse and the lush strings com­plete the sad sen­sa­tion, with a mourn­ful pi­ano solo. The fi­nale, Boule­vard of Bro­ken Dreams, is an apt con­clu­sion that achieves the right note of melan­cholic ex­pres­sion with­out a hint of mawk­ish­ness.

This is a highly per­sonal and un­for­get­table col­lec­tion of songs of sor­row, de­liv­ered with con­sum­mate feel­ing and jazz sen­si­bil­ity, and with a beauty that ul­ti­mately achieves a tran­scen­dent qual­ity.

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