Clare Fischer Comes at You “Out of the Blue”

Out of the Blue

OUT OF THE BLUE / C. FISCHER: Love’s Walk.1 Starbright.1 Out of the Blue.1,3 Millbrae Walk.2 Novelho. 49 (Larry Ford).1 BRASIL-NETO: Tema do Boneco de Palha (Theme of the Straw Doll).2 WASHINGTON-HARLINE-CHURCHILL: Medley: When You Wish Upon a Star/Someday My Prince Will Come. MANCINI: Two for the Road. MALHEIROS: Cascade of the Seven Waterfalls.2 JOBIM-GILBERT-DE MORAES: Amor em Paz. HODGES: Squatty Roo. REINHARDT: Nuages.1 BONFA-DE MORAES-JOBIM-MARIA: Medley: Carnaval/A Felicidade/Samba de Orfeo2 / Dr. Clare Fischer, kbds/arr; Brent Fischer, vibes/bs/all perc; 1Peter Erskine, 2Mike Shapiro, dm; 3Denise Donatelli, 3John Proulx, voc / Clavo Records CR201509

Here is yet another installment in the Clare Fischer project, overseen by his talented son Brent, of his father’s compositions and recordings. This one, like most of the tracks on ¡Intenso!, are arrangements of others’ works, with only four pieces on the album written by Clare himself, but as is usually the case his re-imagining of others’ music is illuminating and fascinating.

Happily, we start with a piano trio rendition of Love’s Walk, a tune Fischer had previously recorded as a solo. It was rare for him in his later years to really stretch out on piano through a full performance; usually he just contributed a chorus or two as one of the soloists in group performances. The man could really swing, and his playing was so full of surprises, that I feel a little guilty about there not being as much of his piano playing extant as his band and group performances. Taken at a relaxed “walking” tempo, Fischer shows us here how well he could swing at that pace and still be inventive. What a great opening for this CD! And, happily, it continues in his electric piano rendition of Brasil’s Tema do Boneco de Palha, in which he revels in the Latin rhythms with wonderful creativity.

Surprisingly, Fischer lays back on the medley of tunes from Walt Disney’s Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty, leading into When You Wish Upon a Star in a meditative, relaxed mode. He fully states the theme of the former, with little fillips added in the breaks, before slowly dissembling it. He then blends his playing seamlessly into Someday My Prince Will Come, a tune that was also a favorite of Dave Brubeck and Jack Reilly.

In Starbright, we have an almost old-fashioned ‘50s performance, complete with vibes, bass and drums. It’s also very ‘50s-ish in its harmonic innovation, sounding like some of the more far-out things that the West Coast bands of the time were doing. Thus I wasn’t surprised to learn in the liner notes that Fischer had written it in the ‘50s but considered it too far-out to record then. It’s largely but not completely tonal, with surprisingly fluid harmonic changes and unusual chord positions. Henry Mancini’s Two for the Road is yet another ballad performance, again wonderfully relaxed and inventive.

Oddly, the tune Cascade of the Seven Waterfalls begins in a way that sounds eerily like Blueberry Hill, only set to a Samba beat. Here Fischer really stretches out and becomes quite inventive, his rhythmic treatment of the tune bouncing along over the bass line. By contrast, the title tune of this album, Out of the Blue, was another adventurous piece by Fischer that he had not only never recorded before but hadn’t titled. For this recording, Denise Donatelli and John Proulx did the wordless vocals. This is a real gem, with Fischer playing a sort of walking bass line before his two-chorus solo later on in the track. Millbrae Walk, originally recorded on his tribute album to Cal Tjader, Tjaderama. This version features Brent Fischer again on vibes and bass with Mike Shapiro on drums. Amor en Paz is played completely solo, again in a slow tempo but not lacking in interest or creativity.

Johnny Hodges’ famous Squatty Roo receives the full-frontal Clare Fischer treatment: redistribution of beats, harmony and counterpoint. Brent plays the “guitar sounds” on his electric bass. Django Reinhardt’s Nuages is played at what I’d call a medium-slow tempo on electric piano, almost teasing the melodic line and harmony as he moves it along, yet still keeping up a jazz swing. You could electronically speed up this performance if you wished and it would swing like mad, but it makes a great effect at this pace. And what a great improvised section it has!

Novelho is another one of those wonderfully mad-sounding tunes by Fischer, this one written in the early 1960s and recorded at that time by an uncredited band without a title. Upon rediscovering this unreleased gem, Clare gave it its present title and later adding a bridge and transcribing it for clarinet choir, but to hear this original version is to appreciate the wonderful energy that young Clare Fischer had, and also to hear how much he owed to Lennie Tristano at that time. 49 was written as a tribute to Clare’s good friend Larry Ford, who died at that age. It’s a kind of lament, but a jazz lament, not a maudlin one, with his trademark harmonic movement and attractive but somewhat elusive themes. This is, again, a piano trio performance.

We end our current exploration into Fischer’s world with a marvelous Latin medley of three of Jobim’s most famous tunes, Carnaval (a.k.a. A Day in the Life of a Fool), A Felicidade and Samba de Orfeu from the film Black Orpheus. The performances are, again, almost achingly slow, with Fischer bringing out the melos of the firs tune beautifully before upping the tempo to a medium swing. Overall, a fine album of mostly late-period Clare Fischer at the 88s.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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