Jazz CD Reviews

Drew Paralic – Wintertime Tunes of Drew Paralic

Turning back the clock via wintery melodies.

Published on September 2, 2012

Drew Paralic – Wintertime Tunes of Drew Paralic

Drew Paralic – Wintertime Tunes of Drew Paralic – self-released, 25:53 (EP) ***1/2:

(Drew Paralic – composer, arranger, producer; Elias Bailey – upright bass; Laura Kenyon – vocals (tracks 1, 6); Mike McGinnis – tenor saxophone, clarinet; James Newman – piano (track 4); Bennett Paster – piano (track 2), engineer; David Pearl – piano (tracks 1, 3, 5-6); Vinnie Sperrazza – drums)

You won’t find Drew Paralic on his new 25-minute, six-track, semi-holiday EP, Wintertime Tunes of Drew Paralic. That’s because the pianist wrote, arranged and produced his original, sometimes yuletide-yearning pieces for other musicians to perform. Paralic’s fourth self-issued album looks to the past for inspiration, including Paralic’s former releases. The vocal song, “How Bill’s Heart Sings” and the cool jazz clicker “Steps,” for instance, were previously recorded for Paralic’s third outing, Roll with It, Baby (which came out in 2010). And the other vocal number, “My Wintertime Sky,” was initially offered as an instrumental (called “Wintertime Sky”) on Paralic’s 2003 venture, Blue Passion. The remaining three cuts were penned specifically for this project.

Paralic’s chief influence seems to be the Great American Songbook, and Paralic’s small band jazz arrangements definitely bring to mind standards from the post-war years, although listeners also may hear other creative muses which have stimulated Paralic’s compositions, such as Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and others. Paralic utilizes most of the same players who worked on Roll with It, Baby, including singer Laura Kenyon, rhythm team Elias Bailey (upright bass) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), along with Mike McGinnis (tenor sax and clarinet: he’s an alum of Erik Deutsch’s band). Pianist Art Hirahara has been replaced by three keyboardists: James Newman, David Pearl and Bennett Paster (who is also the studio engineer).

The Christmas-themed material certainly juxtaposes with the outside heat when this item had its late summer release (imagine if the lawn furniture was suddenly covered in a blanket of white). While Kenyon vocalizes during “My Wintertime Sky,” about Santa, reindeer pulling his sleigh and Rudolph’s ruby glow, temperatures for the nation languished in or near triple digits. That does not take away from the tune’s appeal, which has a swinging flair and a classic structure, and is readymade for your next holiday-focused mix tape. The only other seasonal composition is the jazz ballad “(On the Occasion of) Wet Snow,” which features the slowly falling notes of pianist Pearl, McGinnis’s silvery clarinet, and supple bass and drums which provide a casual rhythmic flow.

The other jazz instrumentals have a similar, December-ish demeanor. The mid-tempo track “Down in Soho” has a glinting melody accentuated by McGinnis’s tempered tenor sax and Paster’s polished piano and evokes what might have happened if keyboardist Bill Evans had performed with saxophonist Paul Desmond. The Monk-esque “Steps” is a solo outlet for Newman, who uses block chords and rapid right hand lines to capture Paralic’s knack for an intricately layered tune which nevertheless retains a friendly vibe. Clarinet is once again at the forefront on the straightforward “Finally 2001,” which conjures up Eddie Daniels’ style. Pearl nonchalantly shifts from rhythm colorist to soloist and back again, and Bailey contributes a sympathetic bass solo, while Sperrazza mostly concentrates on cymbals and brushes, although he also adds a low-key improvisation which showcases his proficiency to swing. The short record concludes with another vehicle for Kenyon, “How Bill’s Heart Sings,” which recalls the classic vocal era of the 1950s-1960s, the kind of jazzy pop piece which would have pleased Blossom Dearie’s supper club listeners; or perhaps contemporary Norah Jones fans. Paralic turns back the clock on Wintertime Tunes of Drew Paralic, a congenial journey to a nostalgic past where melody ruled and subtle affability was fundamental.

TrackList: My Wintertime Sky; Down in Soho; (On the Occasion of) Wet Snow; Steps; Finally 2001; How Bill’s Heart Sings.

—Doug Simpson

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