love a mother has for her son is the driving force behind Chris
McNulty’s Eternal (Palmetto Records, 2015). Combining her
charming voice with a chamber ensemble and a jazz trio, she honors Sam
McNulty, who died in 2011.
Sam was a hip-hop artist and composer, whose artist name is Chap One.
The core trio is comprised of John DiMartino, piano; Ugonna Okegwo,
bass; and Gregory Hutchinson, drums. Paul Bollenback, guitar; and
Matthew Jodrell, flugelhorn, also contribute. Steve Newcomb provides
orchestration, arrangements and conducts the chamber ensemble. The
chamber players are Mazz Swift, Josh Henderson and Amanda Lo, violins;
Trevor New, viola; Meaghan Burke and Marika Hughes, cello; Jodie Rottle,
flute and alto flute; Ivan Barenboim, clarinet and bass clarinet; John
Morgan-Bush, French horn; and Ben Wendel, bassoon.
A somber ballad, “The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers,” begins the set.
“Late this night, she waits alone / she tries to accept the truth.” This
opening line is deeply personal for McNulty. That connection comes
through in her beautiful delivery. The music begins softly, slowly, and
establishes early a sense of loss. The pace picks up during the
instrumental break, with all the instruments making their mark.
Bollenback stands out during his solo, but several other players are
distinct as well. McNulty scats briefly before the song reverts to the
slower, softer melody.
“Where Is Love” has a hint of bossa nova. The chamber ensemble and jazz
musicians blend well, accompanying McNulty’s soothing voice. The strings
give it a special touch. DiMartino’s solo enhances the elegance.
McNulty says she never sings a song unless she can connect with it
personally. That connection is stronger as the process of seeking
material came when Hurricane Sandy struck, leaving McNulty without
electricity, heat or running water for eight days. She sat in front of
the fireplace with dozens of songbooks, searching for lyrics or melodies
that spoke to her, by candlelight.
McNulty emerged on the international jazz scene in 1991. Her recordings
and performances have earned 4-star and 5-star reviews in publications
such as DownBeat, Jazz Journal and Jazz Times.
A native of Australia, she won the prestigious Australian Bell Award for
Best Vocal Jazz Album for The Song that Sings You Here.
Eternal is her seventh release.