Jan 18, 2014
Every year about this time, people begin to ask me for musical suggestions for Valentine’s Day. What’s the bst music for a romantic dinner? What’s the best CD to surprise someone with as a gift? Old classics? Maybe some newcomers?
Well, this year the answer is simple – pick up Cava Menzies and Nick Phillips‘ new CD Moment to Moment.
Not that this is an album dripping with love songs. Rather, it's an exploration of how to play jazz ballads. And while albums of ballads are not hard to find, this is a CD of music that happens, as Ms. Menzies explains, "in that space where you have a moment to breathe." In repertoire drawn primarily from the jazz catalog as well as the Great American Songbook, Ms. Menzies (piano) and Phillips (trumpet) - joined by the tastefully simpatico rhythm team of bassist Jeff Chambers and drummer Jaz Sawyer - go far beneath the surface of the melody lines and chord changes. Their improvisations have a quiet wakefulness, a deceptive simplicity that reveals a carefully constructed, unassuming majesty. Not bad for a recording debut, from a pair of muscians who only met a few years ago.
Neither Ms. Menzies nor Phillips makes a living through performance - though hopefully this will go a ways to change that - but they each make a living in music. As a longtime staff producer and Vice President at Concord Music Group, Phillips has worked on hundreds of albums - by noted artists ranging from Karrin Allyson to Poncho Sanchez to Gary Burton - and overseen the label's acclaimed jazz reissue program, where his personal involvement has elevated collections of work by such giants as Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and Thelonious Monk. Check out our podcast interview from 2009.
Ms. Menzies teaches music to kids in grades 6 through 12 at the Oakland (CA) School for the Arts, where she chairs the vocal department and conducts the school choirs; what's more, she can lean on a rich family history. Her grandmother danced at the legendary Cotton Club in New York (the home of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway); her mother is a classically trained flutist; and Menzies' father, trumpeter Dr. Eddie Henderson, was a founding member of the legendary Herbie Hancock Sextet in the late 1960s, and has recorded nearly two dozen albums under his own name.
Podcast 405 is our conversation, which talks about how they egan working together, how they choose tunes and the great joy that had in recording the album in the famous Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California. Musical selections from the album include "The Peacocks";"Phantoms"; "Mal’s Moon" (a Cava original); and Nick’s "You".