Even as a fellow Montrealer and jazz aficionado, I was only vaguely aware of New York-based trombonist Mike Fahie. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing – to stay out of the limelight – but over the years Fahie has quietly amassed an impressive list of performance and recording credentials. In addition to leading his own ensembles, he is a regular with the Gramercy Brass Orchestra and Darcy Argue’s Secret Society, and has performed alongside Maria Schneider, Ingrid Jensen, Donny McCaslin, and Jon Cowherd.
Fahie’s debut release, Anima, is no exception as the leader surrounds himself with some top notch musicians including Bill McHenry (saxophone), Ben Monder (guitar), Ben Street (bass), and Billy Hart (drums). The disc opens with Fahie taking an unaccompanied introduction on “The Journey” demonstrating his bright yet nuanced tone. McHenry joins in for the brooding melody before the two exchange solos that blur the line between improvisation and composition.
Following a recent trend for jazz musicians to try their hand at arranging pop and rock tunes (see Brad Mehldau, Vijay Iyer, or the Bad Plus), Fahie reinterprets Paul Simon’s “Cecilia.” Rather a surface treatment of the tune, Fahie provides a total overhaul featuring a slowed down groove, open vamp, and reharmonization of the melody. Also of note are solos by McHenry who exercises a melodic minimalism, and Monder who displays his trademark ethereal timbre and sonic palette. The album includes two additional covers, namely a minor blues by William Green entitled “Village Greene,” and a faithful rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “Work”.
Of the six original compositions the two standouts are “Waltz for P.C.,” a gospel-tinged country-esque waltz, and “Seven Sisters,” a modern straight eighth tune in 7/4 with a simple melody and pop chords. The fact that this is Fahie’s first release as leader belies the fact that his music reveals the sophistication and emotional depth of a jazz veteran. Hopefully Anima will introduce the trombonist to a wider audience as the quality of his playing and compositions/arrangements definitely deserve star billing.