Mark McGrain Love + Time + Divination
Mark McGrain (founder and leader of the group PLUNGE) pilots a group of New Orleans modern jazz virtuosi through a collection of new compositions presented along-side selections from the American songbook and a soulful reworking of a Pink Floyd classic. Lauded “Voice of Treme,” singer John Boutté joins McGrain’s lyrical trombone along with the, at times lush and at other times striding saloon piano accompaniment of Matt Lemmler and the adventurous, driving contrabass of James Singleton. Love, Time, and Divination marks a change of course for McGrain (at least temporarily) toward song form, melody, and harmonically relevant improvisations—it is an album of unabashedly beautiful music performed by consummate jazz artists; all tracks were recorded on August 14, 2017 at Esplanade Studio in New Orleans by legendary engineers Misha Kachkachishvili and John Fishbach (mastering).
The 11 tracks on Love, Time, and Divination cover a wide range of musical styles from New Orleans stride piano and trombone duets to modern, rhythmically stirring swing, bossa nova, gospel, and even salsa melodies—at once memorable, smart, and very soulful at every turn. Doug Ramsey cited McGrain’s music as “among the best post-Katrina jazz developments in New Orleans music.” Journalist and blogger Raul da Gama (www.jazzdagama.com) called McGrain’s music, “Vivacious, even visceral . . . wonderfully accessible . . . revolutionary elements come together in repertoire that agilely combines trenchant virtuosity with keen lyricism. This is meticulously articulated music which places emphasis on the glorious sound of beauty . . . memorable.”
Vocalist John Boutté, who Nate Chinen in the NY Times said “[exudes] New Orleans feeling: the bonhomie and pride along with the heartache,” and Larry Blumenfeld, in the Village Voice referred to as “New Orleans’ best-kept secret, and possibly its strongest voice,” joins the trio on the McGrain original “It All Comes Down To Love,” a swinging version of the Van Heusen/Mercer standard “I Thought About You,” and a soulful rendition of David Gilmour’s Pink Floyd classic “On The Turning Away.” Pianist Matt Lemmler spent time performing nightly and touring with legendary clarinetist Pete Fountain. The great jazz composer and pianist Dave Frishberg called Matt “a pianist of rare originality and a point of view about standard songs that’s always surprising and often quirky.” Matt and Mark both work together regularly in John Boutté’s band. Bassist James Singleton has been a key contributor to McGrain’s quartet and Plunge efforts over the past twenty years. He has also performed with countless jazz artists including John Scofield, John Medeski, Eddie Harris, Lionel Hampton and countless others.
Mark McGrain, leader of the critically acclaimed contemporary jazz group PLUNGE www.plunge.com, has been called “soulful, vivacious. A daring trombonist” by DownBeat Magazine and “[one of] the most forward-leaning musicians in New Orleans” by Tom Jacobsen, (www.NewOrleansNotes.com). Journalist Scott Yanow wrote in JAZZIZ, “McGrain proves that jazz trombone, while still owing a debt to J.J. Johnson, has traveled far during the past 70 years.”
The Artist’s Words:
If you are already familiar with my work with PLUNGE, you will find this album to be very different in tone and style. This is a collection of melodies and jazz improvisations based on each song’s form—atypically, I intentionally stayed inside the lines. The initial idea was to honor my aging parents by recording a few of their favorite songs from the 1930s and 40s.
In the course of things, I decided to compose new songs that reflect some of the harmonic traditions of that era. Several years ago John Boutté asked me to do an arrangement of David Gilmour’s “On The Turning Away,” which is also included. The abiding theme throughout this record is a celebration of the sentiment one feels when first moved by love, the sense of wonder as life gradually reveals itself, over time, and the optimism of the endless quest for the original idea; divining inspiration.
As Time Goes By –Hupfeld (6:55) New Orleans stride piano and trombone played with a plunger mute—a duet fit for any high-class gin joint or the parlor of Storyville’s finest bordellos.
It All Comes Down To Love –McGrain (4:00) A very cool and grooving overture featuring “the voice of Treme” John Boutté backed by piano, bass, and trombone.
Blossom –McGrain (3:30) Post-bop revisited—an up-tempo, swinging instrumental.
3:27 –McGrain (5:38) Melodically lilting, rhythmically assuaging. Possibly the most memorable instrumental on the album.
On The Turning Away –Gilmour/Moore (4:08) An original arrangement of Pink Floyd’s stirring anthem to the Homeless and Destitute. A powerful vocal backed by a brass trio—includes a very soulful trombone solo by McGrain. *released as a single with album presales.
Hola Brah –McGrain (4:00) An up-beat Salsa instrumental.
I Thought About You –Van Heusen/Mercer (6:24) A head nodding, toe-tapping rendition of the romantic standard sung by John Boutté with muted trombone, piano, and bass.
Étreinte Bleu (Paris’ Blue Embrace) –McGrain (5:11) Reflective of Eric Satie, an impressionistic stroll along the banks of the Seine; trombone and piano duet.
Arise –McGrain (5:25) Up-tempo and swinging instrumental—modern jazz trio of trombone, piano, and bass.
Love, Time, And Divination –McGrain (5:58) A lyrical, instrumental rhumba by the trio.
I Can’t Get Started –Duke/Gershwin (5:30) After a fiery trombone introduction inspired by Bunny Barigan’s opening cadenza on the 1938 hit, it’s back to the trombone/piano duo that opened the album.