Tuesday, January 1, 2013

In review--Songs for the Road

Chris McNulty
The Song that Sings You Here
Challenge Records

If you didn’t know the story behind Chris McNulty’s album The Song that Sings You Here, you might find the album romantic and sensual.  And it is those things, but the irony of McNulty’s son’s death and the story that McNulty includes in the liner notes contributes pathos that hovers over both the covers and original tunes that grace the album.  For instance, when you hear the jazz chanteuse croon the words to One Less Bell to Answer (Bacharach/David), you feel McNulty’s heart breaking.  Then the vocalist closes the album with the titular song she composed before the death of her son.  She sings, “Just like the sun, an ageless flame.  Just like the moon and sand. Just like your eyes that shine forever here through all time, love’s a long road home.”

Backed by a stellar band that includesUgonna Okegwo on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums, Paul Bollenback on guitars, Andrei Kondokov and Graham Wood on piano, Igor Butman on saxophones and Anita Wardell on guest vocals, McNulty works from a rich palette of moods and emotions.  There’s not a phrase here that she doesn’t color and claim as her own and every word she sings feels ripe with the spirit of living.  However, most listeners will grab onto the sexy lyrics such as on the opening track, How Little We Know (Springer/Leigh) where two tingles come together and mingle or the text on The Lamp is Low (De Rose/Shefter) or on Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz which gets the full blues vocals effect here.

Overall, McNulty and her band remind us that jazz is about the art of living as well as, overcoming hardships through musical expression.  The cathartic set of songs that range from the hopeful On the Street Where You Live (Loewe/Lerner) to the mesmerizing Letter to Marta (McNulty) to the anguish-laced One Less Bell, this album indeed sings us all home to our souls.  And for anyone looking for a jazz vocalist who celebrates this thing we called life, McNulty fits the bill.

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