NAT SIMPKINS

100x1Black.gif (41 bytes) Cape Ann Escape
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1. On A Misty Night (Real)
2. All The Way
3. Begin The Beguine
4. Violets For Your Furs
5. Cape Ann Escape (MP3)
6. Skylark
7. Exactly Like You
8. Carmen
9. A Foggy Day
10. Someone To Watch Over Me
11. Conchy Joe

RealPlayer MP3

Nat Simpkins' latest release, "Cape Ann Escape" seems like a nice way to spend an hour, just relaxing listening to the sounds. Now that you've got the CD, you don't even have to go to Cape Ann to escape.

-Eric Jackson
Eric in the Evening
89.7FM WGBH FM Boston

Nat Simpkins-Tenor Sax, Michael Cochrane-Piano, Calvin Hill-Bass, Cecil Brooks III-Drums

Nat Simpkins' new recording is different from his previous releases. Simpkins recordings in the past have featured the saxophonist teamed up with a Hammond B-3. Here, we get to listen to a different facet of the saxophonist. He works here with a rhythm section whose members should be familiar to many jazz fans. Producer and drummer Cecil Brooks III brought along big toned bassist Calvin Hill, who has worked with McCoy Tyner, Max Roach and Junior Mance over the years, and pianist Michael Cochrane, who lived in the Boston area in the early 1970's, has 3 recordings out under his own name and worked with Yoron Israel, Michael Brecker, and Sonny Fortune. His sparkling solos are a pleasure to listen to.

Tadd Dameron's classic composition, On A Misty Night opens up the CD. Another saxophonist from the Boston area, Paul Combs, has been doing some research on Dameron. According to Nat, when Tadd and Coltrane recorded the piece for the album Mating Call, they improvised the bridge. Through Paul's research the chart used here has the melody for the bridge. Pianist Michael Cochrane opens on the first tune of the cd. Nat's tenor comes in big and boistrous, bringing to mind Stanley Turrentine. Listen to the way the rhythm mates work together, locked in a thrilling dance!

Inspired by the King Curtis recording of the song, All the Way again opens with Cochrane 's piano work on the intro. Simpkins takes a couple choruses. Nat's tone is just gorgeous and it's warm enough to melt butter! Cochrane turns in another pretty piano solo.

Begin the Beguine, Cole Porter's classic from "Jubilee" (1935) is next. As Nat's tenor plays the head, drummer Brooks sounds like a bongo or a conga player, a groove he maintains throughout the song. The saxophonist said "Begin The Beguine is such a beautiful melody that I wanted to play it through with only minimal embellishment." The groove established by bassist Hill, drummer Brooks and pianist Cochrane helps to make this tune a "danceable" delight to listen to!

Violets For Your Furs is a duet between Simpkins and Cochrane. Note Nat's big tone as he seems to sing this song. Nat was inspired to play this one by vocalist Johnny Hartman and saxophonist John Coltrane, who, according to Nat, "played such beautiful melodies in his Prestige era." Pianist Cochrane sounds Monk- like, at times as he accompanies the tenor player but his solo sounds more like McCoy Tyner.

There is a bright and sunny feeling to the title track, Cape Ann Escape. That feeling hides the fact that it's really a difficult tune to play. The chords are similar to Horace Silver's "Peace" and John Coltrane's Central Park West. Navigating through the difficult changes of this song results in a tune with a relaxed feeling. This tune tells about Nat's favorite retreat during a low period in his life. While looking out at the water from that retreat, Simpkins came to the realization that everything would be okay. Simpkins attacks this one with fiery passion when he solos.

Calvin Hill is another one of the fine musicians who called the greater Boston area home at one time or another. The tune Skylark features the bassist and Nat in a duo setting. After a pretty straight reading of the melody by the pair, Hill solos next. Nat says he's wanted to record this one since he made a trip to Scullers Jazz Club in Boston a few years ago to hear David "Fathead" Newman who performed the tune that evening.

Exactly Like You is a tune that Nat's been playing for years. Calvin and Cecil play a short introduction to this one. It's a shuffle groove that makes you think of soft shoe dancers or at times, tap dancers. (Isn't it interesting how I keep talking about Cecil Brooks III with dance references? Listen! You'll hear what I mean!) Michael Cochrane takes the first chorus, turning in another very pretty solo. Nat takes a short solo next. Is that "Jingle Bells" he quotes to start his solo?

Carmen is a samba for Nat's mother, Carmen Simpkins. Nat's mother has painted over 5000 paintings in her lifetime and she still paints and exhibits her work all over the world. Listen to the tone colors the saxophonist gets using a growl, producing interesting harmonic effects that sound like the saxophonist is playing more than one note at a time. The rhythm section is stellar here. Again listen to Brooks' drum work throughout the tune and during his solo, in which the drummer sounds like he's the timbale player in the band!

Two tunes written by the Gershwins are next. A Foggy Day is the tune Nat has used for sometime now as the set opener at many of his live performances. These musicians seemed to have enjoyed themselves on that famous foggy evening! Nat takes the first solo, setting a nice gentle pace before pianist Cochrane makes his statement.

On the second Gershwin tune Simpkins wanted to feature the ballad playing of Michael Cochrane. He plays a beautiful unaccompanied introduction to Someone To Watch Over Me. Plain, simple, not fancy, Nat's playing is so pretty it makes me wonder if the saxophonist was ever a singer. Nat Simpkins lived in the Bahamas some years ago. On the islands he often heard the sound of calypso music. Conchy Joe, an island term for a white Bahamian, is Nat's calypso. It's somewhat reminiscent of "Stone Cold Dead in the Market," another calypso tune that was popular several decades ago.

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