"Northern Light" – Notes on Jazz ReviewCD Review by Ralph Miriello
Twenty Years in the Vault: Scott Healy-Glenn Alexander Quartet's Northern Light
The music does have an organic quality to it, breathing at its own unhurried pace. The opening number “Spiral” is a case in point. Drummer Hirshfield seems to be able to let the fragmented tune float over a rhythm that has no appparent time. Instead the group sympathetically floats along a path created by Alexander's meandering Abercrombie-inspired guitar excursions. On Alexander's fetching “Christmas Day”, Healey plays a beautifully darting piano solo remin
iscent of early Lyle Mays with Pat Metheny with Alexander's guitar taking on a distinctive Metheny tone.
Scott Healy's “November” is introduced with a buoyant bass solo by Driscoll that leads to this folk inspired
melody. Alexander plays a warm and sensitive acoustic guitar solo that helps sustain the “down home” feeling of this song. Healy's piano work is beautifully conceived as he seems to lose himself in the solo with a Keith Jarrett-like wandering quality to his playing.
On Glenn Alexander's “To the Point” we have top notch ensemble work. Healy's piano is poignant and pretty, while Alexander's use of modulating echoed guitar effects is perfectly suited to the airy feel of the piece. Driscoll and Hirshfield are superbly understated while maintaining creative support.
“Chimes” is a beautifully realized ethereal piece. With Hirshfield's exquisite use of his cymbals, Driscoll's sustained and bowed bass lines and Alexander's masterfully controlled guitar work with its swooping violin-like sound. It is almost as if Healy is playing piano with his fellow musicians on top of a beautiful, open mountaintop meadow, the band in perfect harmony with its surroundings and the prevailing winds. “Chimes” has an open air freshness to it that transports you to that mountainside even when your sitting on the couch in your living room.
The title track “Northern Light” has a 6/4 ostinato line that is played by Healy and with layered melodies by Alexander guitar and Driscoll's bass before Healy adds his synthesized keyboards ala Zawinul at the midway point. Healy and Driscoll have a brief conversation with Hirshfield adding percussive pops along the way. Alexander lays low until he re-enters when Healy restores the ostinato piano line. The song seems to hint at worthy points of departure within its structure, but the promise never seems to materialize before the song ends.
Scott Healy and Glenn Alexander's “Northern Light” is one of those rare recordings that thankfully, after being buried for over twenty years, made its way out of the vault and into the light.