For a debut disc, Swingin' to the Sea is surprising and boasts not only San Diego physician Miki Purnell's rather auspicious entry into the jazz world proper, possessing far too much talent to spend time in amateur ranks, but also the continuingly satisfying contributions of Tamir Hendelman and Lori Bell, who have appeared on other fine efforts over the last few years. Purnell's is music of another era, one not long past but a time brought low by the lite-jazz craze of cellophane sonics over the past 20 years. Swingin' does just what it says, it swings, but also demonstrates mastery in balladry, skoobly-op, Latinate, and various modes slowly making their return to fresh air unsullied by corporate jackanapery. Think of the times when Charles Lloyd, Manhattan Transfer, Minnie Riperton, the Pointer Sisters, and an array of hipster cool-heads were plying their trade.
Purnell's version of Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage, a song that never gets old (here with lyrics by Hancock's sister Jean), is the most sterling exposition of the CD's baker's dozen. At 6:31, there's plenty of room for scatting, lilting avian vocals, Lori Bell's hummingbird flute, and piano landscapes by Tamir Handelman. Bursting with vivacity, gamboling like an exuberant teenager on a warm summer's day, mellifluous but energetic, the track is nonetheless upended and brought back to earth in the follower, The Nearness of You, a classic gently handled, its pool of calm invested with rich measured tints. In Purnell's hands, the old standard becomes in fact a tone poem, especially when she stretches the notes out.
Hendelman and Bell produced the CD, both formidable musicians above and beyond the estate of warm accompanists, and critic Scott Yanow, who wrote the liner notes, is going big time for Hendelman's soloing in Estate, which is excellent, but I'll take Dave McKay's work in Free as well, which calls back to Purnell's improv in Maiden Voyage, dizzy with exuberance and change-ups. Several of the sessioneers arranged all the cuts with a sharp ear to never intrude on the singer's foreground—her light, clear, happy notes need a full sky to play in—and though he didn't participate in the arranging duties, special note should be made of Kevin Koch's drum work, Free being a prime stomping ground for his chops as well. This is a CD you're going to have to spin more than once because it can't all be taken in in a single listen.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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