CD Review: Nicole McCabe, Mosaic

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Seen as one of the most compelling figures on the Los Angeles jazz scene, Nicole McCabe’s latest album, “Mosaic,” stands as a testament to her remarkable growth and artistic vision. Recently, I had the privilege of immersing myself in this captivating release, and I can confidently say that it is a work of exceptional quality.

From the outset it’s clear that, “Mosaic” weaves a compelling narrative that transcends the notion and genre boundries between contempory jazz and the Avant-garde. McCabe’s compositions are imbued with personal meaning, paying homage to the influential women in her life and exploring themes of history, struggle, and ultimately, peace. The opening suite, “Force of Good” and “Architect,” serves as a poignant tribute to her female mentors, while the closing track, “Derecske,” is a heartfelt dedication to her grandmother’s Hungarian roots.

McCabe’s artistry is complemented by an ensemble of remarkable musicians, each contributing their unique voices to the tapestry of sound. Verve recording artist Julius Rodriguez’s impeccable piano and Rhodes performances are nothing short of mesmerizing, infusing the compositions with a distinctive flair. Bassist Logan Kane and drummer Tim Angulo form a formidable rhythm section, propelling the music forward with a palpable energy and groove.

The addition of trombonist Jon Hatamiya and trumpeter Aaron Janik on select tracks adds depth and complexity, allowing for denser orchestration and intricate counterpoint. Furthermore, the presence of guitarist Jeff Parker, who also served as the album’s producer, lends a focused melodic acuity, particularly on the haunting ballad “Tight Grip.”

What truly sets “Mosaic” apart is its ability to capture the live, spontaneous energy that McCabe and her colleagues strive for on stage. The album’s compositions are imbued with a sense of adventure, departing from traditional jazz forms and embracing a more exploratory approach. McCabe’s influences, ranging from Joni Mitchell to Kurt Rosenwinkel and Melissa Aldana, are evident in the intricate arrangements and unconventional chord progressions.

While the entire album is a captivating journey, several tracks deserve special mention. The opening track, with its odd-meter straight eighth feel, immediately engages the listener and sets the tone for what’s to come. “Force of Good” showcases the full band’s prowess with its highly complex arrangement, while “Tight Grip” creates an atmospheric ambiance, punctuated by Parker’s beautiful guitar work.

Julius Rodriguez’s solo contributions are nothing short of spectacular, with his performance on “Human Cycles” leaving an indelible mark on the listener’s memory.

Beyond the exceptional musicianship and compositions, “Mosaic” also excels in its sonic quality. The album’s production values are impeccable, allowing each instrument to shine while maintaining a cohesive and balanced mix.

In conclusion, Nicole McCabe’s “Mosaic” is a vibrant and captivating addition to the contemporary jazz canon. It is a testament to her growth as an artist and her ability to seamlessly blend personal narratives with exceptional musicianship. While the album may be less experimental than her previous releases, it is far from a run-of-the-mill session. “Mosaic” is a highly recommended listen for jazz enthusiasts seeking a fresh and engaging musical experience.

Track Listing:
1. Walking Statue | 2. Tight Grip | 3. End Of Spring | 4. Human Cycles | 5. Times Apart | 6. Architect | 7. Force Of Good | 8. Derschke

Nicole McCabe, alto saxophone | Logan Kane, bass | Tim Angulo, drums | Julius Rodriguez, piano and Rhodes | Jon Hatamiya, trombone (1, 8) | Aaron Janik – trumpet (1, 8) J| eff Parker – guitar (6)

Release Date: 24th May 2024
Format: CD | Streaming
Label: Ghost Note Records

Last modified: May 22, 2024