A first recording, like any maiden voyage, is an intoxicating venture.
For a musician, it's a declaration, a calling card, a challenge to the world to sit up and take notice. A mixture of exhilaration, pride and, possibly, sheer terror. It takes guts.
And so it's with delight that I introduce you to Sam Kirmayer's Opening Statement. Sam's dexterity, his love for the richness of jazz and his sheer joy at making music are all over this, his first CD.
The foundation for Sam's future love affair with jazz was laid early. His father loved bop, and filled the house with it. Sam's uncle Franklin is a respected jazz drummer. So although Sam's early guitar interests were rock and blues, all it took was a canny music teacher in college to turn Sam on to Wes Montgomery and Grant Green to seal the deal.
The first cut, Synecdoche, is a nod to Wes' Four On Six. (Synecdoche is also a literary device which uses a part to represent the whole, as in Wes' nickname, "The Thumb".) A jaunty, bluesy bounce, it's also a great introduction to Sam's solid sense of swing.
For All We Know is a melody Sam got to know through Grant Green's recording, with its sweetly optimistic tempo. If you're used to a more somber take on this tune, get ready to groove!
Jiro's Dream, dedicated to a master sushi chef, came out of Sam's admiration of the human desire to strive for perfection, even if it's always just out of reach. A slightly mysterious quest, in a minor mood...
The jazz songbook is rich in compositions dedicated to wonderful music clubs, the kinds of home-away-from-home that feed the creative jazz spirit. Resonance After Dark is Sam's contribution to that tradition, a tasty, comfortable groove written for one of Montreal's most welcoming venues. It's where you might find Sam onstage, perhaps in the company of his three bandmates on this outing: Sean Fyfe on piano, Mike De Masi on bass, and the irrepressible Dave "Scooter" Laing on drums. The whole band seems to relish digging in on this recording!
Is there a more freewheeling, optimistic song in the world than My Shining Hour? Sam takes this one at a rollicking clip, superbly supported by Mike, Sean and Dave.
For me, The Night We Called It A Day is the revelation of the CD. Following Sam's great rubato opening, the quartet gives this Sinatra classic a sweet, rueful treatment, perfect for a song whose lyrics recognize beauty, even in the midst of heartbreak.
Sam's recognition that he stands on the shoulders of giants is clear in his last two offerings. One For Pete is a clever blues dedicated to contemporary guitar great Peter Bernstein, and Opening Statement is Booker Little's angular bop composition. It's a fine way to bring this first Sam Kirmayer opus to a close, with a fearlessness and momentum that promise much, much more to come.
— Katie Malloch