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Chris McNulty: Whispers the Heart

There is so much to commend about this album: above all, the versatile, soothing, swinging voice of Australia-born McNulty; her writing and arranging skills; and the writing and arranging chops of Paul Bollenback (plus his guitar playing). The musical diversity on display is equally impressive: standards sprinkled throughout; rarities by Jobim, Bernstein, and Thad Jones; a surprise guest appearance by Frank Wess, whose tenor timbre is remarkably similar to McNulty’s; and the solo gems from the regulars: tenorist Dave Pietro, on “Lonely Town”; soprano saxophonist Tineke Postma, on “Springosphere”; Bollenback’s rubato guitar cushion for McNulty on “I Should Care”; pianist Gary Versace on the same track, when it evolves into a straightahead swinger; also in the solo column, McNulty’s confident scat chorus on “Come Rain or Shine” and flugelhornist Ingrid Jensen on “Quiet Your Thoughts, Part 2.”

That segues conveniently to McNulty’s compositional chops. If McNulty’s vocalizing is fearless, then her writing is peerless. In part one of “Quiet Your Thoughts,” “Springosphere” and “Lullaby for a Young Boy,” her explorations seem to transcend to a free zone between jazz and modern symphonic. She has thrown off the shackles of strict rhythms and bar lines tend to vanish. So don’t try to dance to those tracks. This, her sixth album, should not merely be listened to, but carefully digested.

Originally Published