Kirk MacDonald Quartet: Songbook Vol. 1 (2009)
Kirk MacDonald first recorded when he was 13. Since that time he has gone on to establish his reputation as one of Canada's finest saxophone players. Over the years, Macdonald has played as a sideman and has led his own bands which have varied in size, the biggest being the 19-piece Kirk MacDonald Jazz Orchestra. The wide angle of the situations he plays in has given him a perspective that is both perspicacious and judicious, opening a field that he documents with authority and finesse.
The music, all of which was composed by MacDonald, breathes through the collective he has assembled. Melody is defined, then developed and essayed through ideas that bridge the head to a well defined body of imagination.
MacDonald is a robust player, but he adds enough nuance to let a tune speak volumes. "New Piece" finds him leaping into bop, firing off linear fusillades that tumble and twist in a hail of invention. The driving intensity is urged on by Barry Romberg (drums) whose accents and crisp cymbal shots not only complement the saxophone, but also fill space without clogging the atmosphere. David Virelles adds the final touch of finesse on the piano on a spiraling elevation that augments the composition even as it stretches the boundaries.
Neil Swainson takes a long springy solo on the bass after MacDonald has introduced the striking melody of "Moulage." Virelles moves from the core returning for quick visits before MacDonald once again pulls back into the refrain. The arrangement tempers the passage.
A pirouette from Virelles introduces "Fleeting" before he settles into improvisatory mode. The melody is given its full dimension by MacDonald with elongated notes the soprano saxophone, before a more intense trajectory into some challenging changes. He returns on the tenor saxophone to cut a broader swath and to define the tune in a more trenchant dimension.
The CD closes with "Goodbye Glenn," a touching tribute to saxophonist Glenn McDonald. MacDonald is soulful and extracts every ounce of raw emotion in a stunning evocation. It's the perfect closer to a fine album that is infectious and absorbing.
Track Listing: New Piece; Manhattan Getaway; Moulage; Calendula; By Invitation Only; Fleeting; Goodbye Glenn.
Personnel: Kirk MacDonald: saxophones; David Virelles: piano; Neil Swainson: bass; Barry Romberg: drums.