|It's just like the label says, "Contemporary straightahead jazz" this pretty much describes the reach, ambition, and accomplishment of this recording.
In the medium bright title composition, "Sing In Me Muse", McClellan expresses his Celtic roots. Tara Davidson on soprano joins in then takes the lead as a brass riff ripens in the background. Kelly Jefferson's full-toned tenor slows the pace down and the dancing theme then gets reprised by the soprano and the rest of the seasoned octet.
In a recording that's more about McClellan's compositions and arrangements than improvised solos there are, mind you, the solos of Jefferson and trombonist William Carn in the strolling McClellan original, "Good As Golson". Jefferson's solo is a churning affair with a cry at its end; in William Carn's case, he solos lengthily and thoughtfully, with a broad attractive tone. Leader McClellan's pizzicato solo caps it all off, in a mellow tone.
And there's the fine standard, "I'm Glad There Is You". First a sombre background encloses the soprano's melody statement; then this evolves into a pair of good solos a tender soprano solo from Davidson, and a harmonically rich piano statement from David Braid.
This recording reminds us that 'context is all' meaning, in this case that the players' efforts, to a large degree, are controlled and defined by the context of Michael McClennan's compositions and arrangements. They're playing in his house.
So, while there's nothing to fault, as such, there's not a big rave review, either. I'm saying I've heard most of these players sound more inspired in other contexts.
McClennan is comfortable within the boundaries of "Contemporary straightahead jazz", and his reach, seemingly, does not exceed his grasp.
by David Fujino August 2007