Clare Fischer : The Clare Fischer Voices…And Sometimes Instruments

Pianist, arranger and composer Clare Fischer, who died at age 83 this past January, often described himself as the best-kept secret in jazz. In a career spanning six decades, he worked with myriad masters, among them Bud Shank, Joe Pass, Cal Tjader, Prince, Michael Jackson, Branford Marsalis and João Gilberto. He arranged for the Hi-Lo’s, the Singers Unlimited and Sergio Mendes and recorded 51 albums as a solo performer and bandleader.

…And Sometimes Instruments is a rather unusual olio, lovingly pasted together by Fischer’s son Brent, who also plays electric bass, vibes, marimba, shakers and rainstick. (Overachievement obviously didn’t skip a generation.) All 20 tracks are built around vocal arrangements, with four principal voices-soprano Mary Hylan, alto Angie Jaree and tenors Gary Jones and David Joyce-plus baritone/bass Bob Joyce on 17 tracks and several more scattered throughout.

Some of the arrangements date back decades; a couple tracks were lifted from tapes recorded in the ’90s; and the rest of the material existed in various stages of development. There are half a dozen standards, all strongly reminiscent of the Hi-Lo’s/Singers Unlimited, several Fischer compositions (including his dazzling “Morning,” presented in both Spanish and Portuguese), a bit of Chopin, some musical tomfoolery (one track, complete with meow choruses, pays tribute to a housecat), and even an august “America the Beautiful.” It’s a lot to take in, rather like an overly bountiful smorgasbord, but it serves as golden testament to the breadth of Fischer’s artistry.