The Nimmons Tribute, “To the Nth”

Cover Art - The Nimmons Tribute - To The Nth

THE NIMMONS TRIBUTE, Vol. 1 – TO THE Nth / P. NIMMONS: Nufsicisum. Night Crawler. Harbours (from The Atlantic Suite). Swing Softly. Holly. Sands of Time. Liëse. S. NIMMONS: Rista’s Vista / Kevin Turcotte, tpt/fl-hn; William Carn, tb; Tara Davidson, a-sax/s-sax/cl; Mike Murley, t-sax; Perry White, bar-sax/bs-cl; Sean Nimmons, pno/Fender Rhodes; Jon Maharaj, bs; Ethan Ardelli, dm / self-produced CD, no label or number

Jazz clarinetist, educator and composer Phil Nimmons, now 93 years old, is the Canadian equivalent of America’s Jamey Aebersold, a highly revered and near-legendary figure whose combined playing (with all of the Canadian jazz greats) and education skills have made him an icon. (I was lucky enough to see Aebersold play in person three times, and on the last occasion, shortly before I became crippled and could no longer attend jazz concerts, thanked him personally for his decades of service to jazz.) This loving tribute CD was organized by his grandson Sean, who is the pianist and arranger on this recording. All of the pieces played here are Phil’s except for Rista’s Vista, which was written by Sean.

The pieces herein have the sound of 1950s cool jazz—think of Shorty Rogers or even Henry Mancini in his jazz days as a point of reference—but they also possess a strong swing feeling, something that has literally disappeared from most modern jazz. (I know that sounds heretical, but it’s true; as Mike Zirpolo pointed out to me, most modern jazz musicians do NOT really swing; their rhythmic sense is built more around bop and post-bop forms of jazz, which have an altogether different rhythmic feel.) And the band is really, exceptionally good. Saxist Tara Davidson doesn’t let the fairly conventional tune structures keep her from playing outside once in a while, Kevin Turcotte is a Rogers-like trumpeter and flugelhornist, along with tenor saxist Mike Murley and a baritone saxist/bass clarinetist named, believe it or not, Perry White (“and don’t call me chief!”).

Another thing many of these compositions have that most modern jazz doesn’t is a strong lyrical feeling in the melodic lines. Turcotte, Davidson, Murley and White are the principal soloists, but grandson Sean Nimmons is a fine pianist who peeks in for a few bars once in a while. Jon Maharaj is a strong, swinging bassist who keeps things moving, and Ethan Ardelli is a vividly imaginative drummer. Swing Softly is one of those laid-back, relaxed medium tempo pieces that are quite rare in jazz nowadays.

This is certainly a fine album although, since Nimmons père was a clarinetist, I wish they had included one on this tribute.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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