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Gary McFarland was dubbed an "adult prodigy" by critic Gene Lees and initially made a major impression in the jazz world during the early '50s, though a turn toward instrumental pop left his contributions somewhat overlooked by the time of his still unsolved murder in 1971. Mark Masters presented a concert of McFarland's music featuring baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan in 2002 and arranged 11 of his works for this release, featuring Smulyan, pianist Steve Kuhn (who worked with McFarland), multi-reed player Gary Foster, and trumpeter Tim Hagans, among others. Three of the pieces were written for Gerry Mulligan & the Concert Jazz Band: the breezy, lighthearted "Weep" and the upbeat "Kitch" (featuring Foster on alto sax), along with the Duke Ellington-influenced "Chuggin'," which showcases Smulyan. Perhaps the most striking work is "Gary's Waltz," a melancholy work recorded on numerous occasions by Bill Evans during the last few years of his life. But after Kuhn's opening piano solo, Masters transforms this piece into a rich tapestry for the ensemble, gradually increasing its tempo and discarding its somber mood, spotlighting Hagans' outstanding trumpet solo. The perfect balance of Masters' charts and the intimate sound captured by engineer Talley Sherwood combine to make this an essential CD. Perhaps Mark Masters' thoughtful exploration of Gary McFarland's compositions will stir additional interest in the late vibraphonist's work, which has been unjustly neglected.
Born: 04 April 1956 in Bethpage, NY
Years Active: '90s, '00s