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
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.