Mary Ann McSweeney, Thoughts of You (54:21) Jazz Magnet JAM-2004 2001 02 27 With Thoughts of You, Mary Ann McSweeney reveals herself to be - in no particular order - a talented bassist and bandleader, a resourceful composer, and an imaginative arranger. To begin with, the musicians on the album are outstanding. Opting for the slightly unusual frontline of trombone and saxophone, McSweeney enlists Mike Fahn and Donny McCaslin, respectively. Fahn plays both valve and slide trombones and McCaslin switches between tenor and soprano, giving McSweeney additional colors to work with. Henry Hey, a budding master, provides wonderful orchestral viewpoints at the piano. Tim Horner, at the drums, serves as McSweeney's partner in rhythm, and percussionist Joe Mowatt appears on three tracks. The album gets off the ground with "R.B.'s Tribute," a blues co-written by McSweeney and Fahn in honor of Ray Brown. Four of the remaining seven tracks are McSweeney originals: "Stillness," a ballad with dark, beautiful harmonies; "Winter on the Bay," an evocative waltz; "Nana's Tango," a dynamically varied piece with a "Spanish tinge"; and "Thoughts of You," a closing piano trio feature. On Wayne Shorter's "Yes and No" and the Raye/DePaul standard "You Don't Know What Love Is," McSweeney toys with 6/8 time in different ways and throws new harmonic challenges at the soloists. Her arrangement of "Amazing Grace" features Henry Hey on Fender Rhodes and places the solos over a half-time funk groove. There's arguably something of a church flavor here, even as McSweeney takes the old spiritual well beyond its familiar bounds. There's much improvisational brilliance on the record, not least from the leader, who gives herself plenty of solo space. But what elevates Thoughts of You above the ordinary is McSweeney's gift for song. ~David R. Adler
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