Bird Is The Worm: New Jazz: We Search. We Recommend. You Listen. www.birdistheworm.com MAY 16 2016
Rita Collective derives its name from the Anouar Brahem recording The Astounding Eyes of Rita, though it goes deeper than that. This quartet of bass clarinet, marimba, acoustic bass and percussion charts a course similar to that of Brahem, who finds his own home in jazz for his oud and singular form of jazz-folk-chamber fusion. Rita Collective isn’t a Brahem clone, nor are they a tribute act, but they do occupy a common patch of turf as Brahem on the jazz landscape.
The quartet shifts the ratio between jazz and chamber, but never to where one masks the existence of the other. “No Return” has a pleasant swing to it, but the chamber elements provide the chill of shadow to the tempo’s beaming sunlight. After an extended period of contemplation, “Slow Snow” gradually reveals itself as a post-bop, with Dean Keller‘s bass clarinet adding just a little bit of, but essential, edge. When the quartet leans more to the chamber influence, tunes like “Dark Heart” and “Gotta Gig(ue)” lend some nice moodiness and introspection to the affair, even when accompanied with a burst of playfulness.
“The Astounding Eyes of Rita” is one of two Anouar Brahem compositions presented by the quartet, along with “Dances With Waves,” from that same recording. The personality of the latter tune really shines bright from the melodic contribution from the marimba of Kristen Shiner McGuire, both when it’s out front in the spotlight, but even more effectively in the way it bolsters the contribution from Keller’s bass clarinet.
“Sky Sketches” uses a Miles Davis composition for its seed and gains a bloom of an upbeat tune with alluring melodic lines. Guest Mark Collins adds some welcome texture on flugelhorn, yielding some scope for the bass clarinet’s tonal range. A rendition of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name Of” strays a bit too far from the album’s center of gravity, but it does let percussionist Matt Bevan-Perkins stretch out and exert his influence over the proceedings. Along those same lines, the chipper “No Return” lets bassist Kyle Vock flex his muscle while also doing his part to keep the song scooting along.
A nice addition to the chamber jazz sub-genre, and a solid option for those of you looking for some bass clarinet action.
Your album personnel: Dean Keller (bass clarinet), Kristen Shiner McGuire (marimba), Kyle Vock (acoustic bass), Matt Bevan-Perkins (percussion) and guest: Mark Collins (flugelhorn).
The album is Self-Produced.
Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Soundcloud page.
Jazz from the Rochester, NY scene.
Kristen Sings Plays and Rings
City Newspaper Review by Ron Netsky
When you grow up as an only child with two high-profile performing artists for parents, your fate may be sealed. It took a while, but Kristen Shiner McGuire has finally released her debut album and it’s a satisfying feeling.
“ It was one of the most thrilling things in my life,” says McGuire. “It took me over 50 years not just to become the musician that I am and have the taste, but to be calm enough and feel confident enough that I could actually do a project like this. I feel proud and a little more complete in my musical journey.”
The title of her album, “Kristen Sings and Plays and Rings,” alludes to various facets of that musical journey. McGuire, Coordinator of Percussion Studies at Nazareth College, is an accomplished vocalist who excels on drums, marimba and vibes.
While she sings on most of the album’s tunes, (and scat-sings on two), she drums on all of them, with excellent solos on “A Night In Tunisia” and “Lover.” And her mallet prowess is on display in “What Game Shall We Play Today?” and “Night And Day.”
McGuire grew up immersed in music. Her mom was a dancer/ choreographer who appeared in Broadway shows like “Bloomer Girl” and worked extensively in movies and television.
Her dad was a “doubler” in pit bands for Broadway shows, including “Cabaret,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “West Side Story.” A “doubler” plays multiple instruments and her dad played eight different woodwinds. He was the alto sax soloist on the New York Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein’s recording of “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.” That’s him at the start, playing those famously snaking five notes: Ba deeb ba deeb baaa.
That’s why the picture on her album’s inside cover means so much to her. It’s McGuire playing percussion in a production of “West Side Story” at the Auditorium Theater.
You might even say her father’s career started hers. “Every time he played in a show he’d bring the album home,” says McGuire. “I would play it forever and ever and learn to sing all the songs.”
But when it came time to choose an instrument in fifth grade, she picked the one thing her dad couldn’t do. “He could not play percussion, so he couldn’t tell me how to do it,” says McGuire. By then her dad had become director of the SUNY Potsdam College Jazz Ensemble and the family moved upstate.
Her dad is no longer alive but his influence is present on her album.
Growing up, listening to his favorite band, The Count Basie Orchestra, drummer Sonny Payne caught her ear. She became a drummer. She heard Basie’s rendition of “Girl Talk” over and over. The song is on her album. Her dad played Ella Fitzgerald’s scat solo on “Shiny Stockings” so many times, she memorized it.” Her take is on the CD.
And he loved two more songs that McGuire ended up recording: “Little Girl Blue” and “When Sunny Gets Blue.” She first heard the latter when then-student Rene Fleming sang it with the SUNY Potsdam band.
By seventh grade McGuire was studying percussion with a professor at the college. She continued her classical training at the University of Illinois and in her graduate work at the Eastman School of Music. She also spent seven months in Japan studying contemporary Japanese marimba literature. But she never learned to improvise.
Ten years ago she was teaching the rhythm class at Tritone Jazz Fantasy Camp (a jazz immersion experience for adults) at Nazareth when she decided to sit in on a combo led by famed guitarist Gene Bertoncini. That was the beginning of her exploration of jazz improvisation.
In preparation for the album she took nothing for granted. She took voice lessons from Derrick Smith, practiced drums. and took jazz vibes lessons.
The idea for the album was germinated at a Christmas party a year ago when McGuire was sitting around a table with fellow Nazareth faculty member and well-known trumpeter Paul Smoker.
“ I said casually to Paul, ‘I’m thinking of making a CD’,” says McGuire. “He said ‘you should.’ I said, ‘would you play on it?’ He said ‘yes’ and that was it.”
On the album Smoker, who is known for his avant-garde work, earns straight-ahead cred on “When Sunny Gets Blue,” “A Night In Tunisia” and “Lover.” Also in the band is pianist Paul Hofmann who contributes several fine solos, bassist Dave Arenius and pianist David McGuire, McGuire’s husband.
When she celebrates the CD’s release with a free concert (7:30 p.m., Fri., Feb. 10 at Nazareth’s Wilmot Recital Hall), all of the musicians will be there, along with an additional drummer.
“ One impetus for the album was, if I separate my vocals and my drumming, each one will get better,” says McGuire, who recorded the group and then recorded her vocals on separate tracks. “When I’m singing and playing drums I don’t breathe well enough and my fills aren’t interesting because I’m thinking about singing.”
All of the album’s songs had special meaning for her, but one she found particularly intriguing was “Waters Of March,” Antonio Carlos Jobim’s most enigmatic tune. The lyrics describe a long, seemingly unrelated, parade of objects and actions.
“ It sounds like stream of consciousness, so you pull from every aspect, not just your conscious mind, but stuff that’s just floating around in there – literally,” says McGuire. “Maybe part of it is metaphoric, part of it could be dream images, or he witnessed a murder or watched his house being torn apart by a flood. Maybe for him those are all parts of his life that he threw into the song without editing a lot.”
Over the years McGuire has written numerous classical percussion pieces for major music publishers. Her works are played all over the world, but her album offered something different.
“ I’ve done tons of projects, but until now I’ve never put anything out with my own stamp on it as a performing artist.”