Al Muirhead – Northern Adventures – The Canada Sessions Vol. 1 – Chronograph

Al Muirhead – Northern Adventures – The Canada Sessions Vol. 1 (TrackList follows) – Chronograph CRO 46, 57:58 [1/27/17] ***:

A Canadian excursion into the Great American Songbook.

(Al Muirhead – trumpet, Flugelhorn & bass trumpet; Tommy Banks – piano 2/6/10; Guido Basso – Flugelhorn 2/6/10; Mike Murley – tenor saxophone 4/9; Chris Andrew – piano 4/9; Campbell Ryga –  soprano/ 5 & alto saxophone /11; Mike Rud – guitar 5/11; Don Thompson – piano 1/12, & doublebass/ 7; Reg Schwager – guitar 1/7/12; Laila Biali – vocals 3/8, piano /3; Ben Whitman – percussion /3; Kodi Hutchinson – doublebass 1/3/8)

Given Canada’s population of slightly over 36 million inhabitants (California has close to 39 million), it is quite commendable that there are four independent record labels that are jazz-oriented namely: JustinTime from Montreal, Cornerstone from Toronto, CellarLive from Vancouver  and Chronograph from Calgary. The latter label has recently released Northern Adventures which features the multi-talented brass-horn-player Al Muirhead. He has surrounded himself with a cross-section of well-known Canadian jazz artists to deliver a session constructed with compositions from the Great American Songbook.

This group of consummate professionals does not break any new musical grounds, but does deliver a well-executed release starting with “Love Me Or Leave Me”  featuring Al Muirhead on bass trumpet. This latter instrument has been little heard in recent years. In fact the last well-known exponent on the instrument was Cy Touff, who was with the Woody Herman band from 1953 to 1955. Sounding more like a trombone than a trumpet, Muirhead executes flawlessly on the number supported by  a couple of nice solos from Don Thompson on piano and Reg Schwager on guitar.

Muirhead continues his bass trumpet excursions on “I’ve Never Been In Love Before” accompanied by one of Canada’s leading tenor saxophonists Mike Murley and pianist Chris Andrew. The interplay among the musicians is first rate and exemplary in this small group setting.

At eighty years of age, Al Muirhead still has a firm tone and interesting ideas that are exemplified on “Come Rain Or Come Shine” where he showcases his trumpet talent in a trio with guitarist Mike Rud and soprano saxophonist Campbell Ryga.

Two of Canada’s most accomplished jazz musicians, Flugelhornist Guido Basso (80 years old) and pianist Tommy Banks (81 years old) join Al Muirhead for three numbers including “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, “Emily” and “You’ll Never Know”. Each is done in a relaxed style, giving the horn players plenty of room to meander, with Banks holding everything together with his stylish piano support.

Finally, a couple of vocals by Laila Biali provides additional interest as she covers “Night & Day” and “The Nearness Of You” in economical fashion with bassist Kodi Hutchison making his presence felt throughout.

TrackList: Love Me Or Leave Me; They Can’t Take That Away From Me; Night & Day; I’ve Never Been In Love Before; Come Rain Or Come Shine; Emily; Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; The Nearness Of You; How Insensitive; You’ll Never Know; All The Things You Are; Once Work If You Can Get It

—Pierre Giroux

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