Mike McGinnis - Singular Awakening

Label: Sunnyside Records, 2018

Personnel – Mike McGinnis: saxophone, clarinet; Art Lande: piano; Steve Swallow: electric bass.


Rising-star clarinetist/saxophonist/composer Mike McGinnis couldn’t have had better associates to develop his musicality than pianist Art Lande and electric bassist Steve Swallow, whose experience and distinct styles provide an elegant carpet for his strides. Singular Awakening is the natural follow-up to last year’s Recurring Dream. The album comprises twelve tracks, eight of them being improvised numbers, while the bassist and the pianist contribute with two compositions each.

Swallow’s groovy jazz compositions occupy the extremities, starting and closing the album with bliss. On “Here Comes Everybody” the bassist takes a moment to fly alone, while Lande’s ideas rekindle Keith Jarrett’s folk-influenced serenity from the 70’s. In turn, “Bite Your Grandmother”, a classic from the 1994 album Real Book, swings unabashedly, exalted by a boppish bounce, positive tension, and exciting rhythmic flair. The individual work of Lande is remarkable, followed by McGinnis, whose daring lines, explored with equal ease and devotion, evoke the best of Monk and Lacy. His Monkian modes are also discernible on “Insist on Something Sometimes”, a piece brought up by a repetitive bass lick with folkloric accentuation.
This type of groove contrasts from the one adopted on “Beau Nivea”, which, flying in seven, instantly makes us harking back to Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia”. Despite the vitality of the bass flow, I found myself wishing some more adventure on top of it, something out of the convention.

The trio achieves that fruition by furnishing a subliminal textural work on “O'Flaherty Decides To Play Jazz”. Lande starts with grandiose harmonies, cleanly executed on the lower register, having the clarinet atop. Later on, with the swinging bass guaranteeing solid ground, the pianist embarks on a ruminative perspective often driven by motivic sketches.

Uncluttered exercises such as “A First Memory” and “Slow Dance In A Whisper” makes us suspended in the air with the clarinet lines unfolding with a gentle touch. The former starts with bass and piano aligned in perfect counterpoint, while the latter fluctuates with autumnal tonalities like a sonata.

Mini's Can-Do Club” is a static and happy exertion. This time around, Swallow doesn’t lead the way, operating on a high register, whether holding a pedal or designing disciplined melodies with his signature sound. It is Lande who assumes the bass notes, resorting to percussive mutes throughout McGinnis’ solo. The pianist´s compositions unquestionably mirror his singular voice, with the classical-influenced “Shining Lights” unveiling a lyric fragility in a well-cadenced 4/4 tempo, and “For Elise” diving into stark introspection and showing a propensity for the airy and the permeable.

Both the established compositions and the collective improvisations enrich a session in which three multi-generational voices crisscross with imagination and clarity of purpose.

        Grade  B

        Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Shining Lights ► 07 - O'Flaherty Decides To Play Jazz ► 12 - Bite Your Grandmother