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Clare Fischer Big Band Directed By Brent Fischer: Pacific Jazz

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Clare Fischer, who passed away in 2012 at age 83, was an extraordinarily prolific musician, with dozens of albums as a leader recorded over a half-century, a lengthy list of credits as composer, arranger (for Prince, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney as well as numerous jazz greats) and sideman (primarily piano and organ). His most consistent collaborator, for more than three decades, was his son Brent Fischer, a formidable multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger in his own right. Pacific Jazz-its title borrowed from the label for which Clare Fischer first recorded-serves both as tribute and, in a sense, a final passing of the torch. Of the 13 tracks assembled here, several feature arrangements by Clare, a few are by Brent and a couple split the billing.

On this big-band session, conducted and produced by Brent, there’s no holding back. The program includes previously unheard original compositions from both Fischers and a handful of choice standards, among them Ellington classics (“Cotton Tail,” “Mood Indigo”), Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porgy” and the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” Brent Fischer prefers bright, nimbly attacked ensemble charts with plenty of solo time tucked in, and the recording itself is crisp and never flags.

That it’s nearly impossible to tell which Fischer is responsible for which arrangement is a good thing, but even given his ease with crossing genres and remaining contemporary, it’s difficult to imagine that Clare might have come up with something as funky as “New Thing,” written by Brent using music-notation software and built atop deep bass and drum grooves. On the other hand, the closing “Ornithardy” is pure Clare, so simple in its steady swing, the tune serving largely as a frame for a riveting extended tenor solo by Bob Sheppard. Presumably this will not be the last recording we hear of Clare Fischer’s music, but either way his legacy is in good hands.

Originally Published