2. Why Are You Blue?
4. One I Could have Loved
6. Bridgehampton Strut
7. Blue Hodge
9. Summer Day
11. Last Rites For the Promised Land
Joe Locke (Vibes)
Sharel Cassity (Saxophones)
Bruce Barth (Piano)
Mike Lawrence (bass)
Michael Benedict (drums)
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GARY McFARLAND LEGACY ENSEMBLE
Circulation: The Music of Gary McFarland(Planet Arts Records)
by Tom Pierce
Director/Bandleader/Drummer Michael Benedict has truly done lovers of expressive and beautiful music a meaningful “solid” with this recording showcasing the exquisite creations and spirit of the uniquely gifted composer/vibist Gary McFarland. He was very popular and respected in the 1960’s, as depicted in the dedicated filmmaker Kristian St Clair’s 2006 documentary, “This is Gary McFarland”.
One of Benedict’s key decisions (in my opinion) was to select most of
the songs from the early and middle parts of his career, even including some written while still in Berklee School of Music.. This focus made the CD true to both McFarland’s creatively improvisational and richly romantic sensibilities.
These tunes while being very accommodating vehicles for intensely passionate and swinging improvisers like Joe Locke, Sharel Cassity and Bruce Barth also have McFarland’s distinctively melodic charm. The alluring ballads include the searing and probing “One I Could have Loved”, the touching “Summer Day” and the compelling Joe Locke solo treatment of “Last Rites for the Promised Land” they also have that wistfully sad trace of melancholy, Brazilians sometimes refer to as “Saudade”.
The uptempo numbers that take full advantage of the spirited drive of the above players included the sprightly “Dragonhead” opener, the intoxicating “Sandpiper” inspired by watching birds dodging waves on Long Island Sound and the title track that was also done well on Benedict’s initial Bopitude recording. For this listener, another point of interest was the varying tempos of the strong two Blues numbers associated with the unforgettably poignant and buoyant Johnny Hodges: “Why Are You Blue” and Blue Hodge”.
Benedict’s wise choice of gifted pianist Bruce Barth to handle the arrangements not only fully utilized the considerably expressive talents of Locke, Cassity and Barth, (all strongly supported by Mike Lawrence’s bass his own drums), but also ensured that each number had its only distinctive flavor. And his choice of instrumentation was not only appropriate, given McFarland’s own vibes playing, but also using Alto and Soprano Sax, rather than Tenor seemed more compatible with the feel of McFarland’s compositions.
The significance of Benedict’s and Producer Thomas Bellino’s decision and skill in doing this recording extends far beyond the actual excellence of the music. Given the fact that McFarland’s highly accomplished 10 year career tragically ended far too soon, at age 38 in 1971, it fortunately introduces his work to so many who otherwise might not have the pleasure of hearing it..
Tom Pierce has had a burning passion for Jazz for over 50 years, initiated and fueled by seeing live in New York City, starting in the early 1960's, virtually every major artist still performing. He's been very happily living in Guilderland since 2001, as an active retiree sharing his love of music by writing online reviews for a number of web sites, preparing DVD presentations to various groups, co-Hosting Radio programs showcasing his favorite artists and busily supporting A Place for Jazz in a variety of ways.