JWR Articles: CD - Yellowbird (Featured performer: Aaron Tindall) - October 21, 2020
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Yellowbird

4.5 4.5
69 min.

BRIDGE 9536
Well worth a listen!

Having made myself familiar with Aaron Tindall’s classical “chops” already (cross-reference below), it was with great expectations that I slid this jazz CD into the player.

As a lifelong Stan Getz enthusiast (no one “growls” better than he, then or now), I was immediately impressed with The Peacocks (clearly, the eyes have it). Pianist Shelly Berg deftly set the stage with a thoughtful opening that ushered in the decidedly mellow tuba (inserting discreet pits of punctuation and gently adorned trills): let’s describe it as a feathery collaboration.

Claude Bolling’s Suite for Cello and Jazz Piano Trio (1984, originally written for Yo-Yo-Ma) has a worthy brass proponent in Tindall.

“Baroque in Rhythm”, infused with swinging counterpoint and near-perfect ensemble, is notable as well for the fine contrasts between dry staccato and liquid legato. Cheers to Berg, bassist Chuck Bergeron and drummer Svet Stoyanov for their welcome interventions, seamless support of the sequences; everyone percolates a marvellous, collective feeling of joy. The closing “oh yeah” fires on all cylinders. Somewhere, Oscar Peterson is smiling.

Following a more than two-minute, leisurely introduction (somewhat rhapsodic with discreet accompaniment from piano and bass), the music intensifies and then “away we go”! This pulsating quartet is most certainly a meeting of the minds, “entre amis”. Twinges of splash cymbal and triangle add to the mix. Everything flies to the finish with heat and verve before a calming coda switches gears.

The Spanish-feeling “Galop” moves steadily forward—the chase is on. Tindall aptly demonstrates his mastery of articulation. There is energy both to burn and savour. The extended cadenza (where Tindall’s breaths almost add another layer of punctuation) set the stage for some welcome triplets before a, relatively gentle, dismount.

“Ballade” opens with an extremely mellow tuba declamation backed up by Satie-like supports from the piano. Soon, everyone slips in as Berg, effortlessly, tastefully “flits” about, before both protagonists exchange roles.

Berg lifts off “Romantique” as he sets the tone and mood; there’s a kind of “Beauty and the Beauty” when Tindall joins the fray; their effective push and pull is the cue to the remainder to follow suit, adding still more to the compelling textures.

The finale (“Cello (Tuba) Fan”) is a veritable “Flight of the Tuba Bee”. Enjoy the ride and tables turned when Tindall expertly lays down his own walking bass, leading to a couple of compelling “half time” rhythmic icing on this delectable cake.

Cheers to Bolling for having the vision to see beyond what was, to what could be!

This delightful disc concludes with the oldest composition—Fred Tackett’s The Yellow Bird (1972)—no relation to legendary pop song. It’s a concerto for tuba and rhythm section with a traditional three-movement structure.

“Fast” swings from the get-go, featuring an enticing mix of textures, tones and rhythms. Much of this singular soundscape stems from the inclusion of electric guitars: Brian Russell doing the honours in the upper registers, while Chuck Bergeron renders a discreet bass that, frequently, is more felt than heard—wish there were more of his ilk. Their blend with Tindall, especially in his “warmer” lines are as welcome as spring rain. Berg keeps everything on an even keel.

After a gently lyrical introduction, in “Not so Fast”, Tindall takes stage, lovingly singing his melodic lines with grace and style. A few, welcome, harmonic excursions provide still more interest. Russell’s solo truly wails then moves everything forward with surety. The remarkable tubist responds in kind before mightily anchoring the “bottom” prior to Round 2.

Berg’s moments to shine offer much lift and energy—often flying about the keyboard before a rare unison sets up the reprise.

After an ear-catching, somewhat dissonant opening, “Very Fast” is just that—balanced by a few collective breaths before the next episode. Russell excels again just as Berg continues his inventive nimbleness, while Bergeron holds it all together. It is left to Tindall to provide one more feature declamation, before they all realize it is time to bid a find adieu (but most certainly not goodbye).

Classical aficionados or jazz buffs matter not: all listeners can expand their horizons with this fine collection of art. JWR

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Featured performer - Aaron Tindall
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