Fierce Heart is David Bach’s sixth album as a bandleader. Seven of the ten tracks are composed by Bach and all are arranged by him.
Bach himself commands all the keyboards and is joined by Al Williams on sax (track 3) and flute (5,10), David Marq on soprano sax (2) and tenor sax (1,4,5,7,8,9), Brian Falkowski on flute (2) and bass clarinet (7) Rob Zinn on trumpet (1,6,9), Lorenzo Sands on bass (1,3,6,8), Jimmy Charlsen on bass (2,4,5,7), Jeff Reed on upright bass (9,20), Mark Prince on drums, Leonard Stevens on guitars (1,3,5,6,7,8), and great percussionists like Edgar Montalvo and Ekendra Das.
The title track opens the album. A bit of funky bass from Lorenzo Sands and backing vocals Jenny Langer and Michele Bowman kick things off. The Spyro Gyra sound is cool and welcome as Bach turns in beautiful piano work over Leonard Stevens guitar. The drums and percussion of Mark Prince and Ekendra Das are relaxed and on spot. Rob Zinn’s trumpet is stratospheric.
Gymnopedie by Erik Satie is given a double-time rendering on the following track and the results are remarkable. Bach’s piano is exquisite and Falkowski’s flute is a fine addition with trilling flourishes. Mark Prince’s drumming is tight and locked in with Jimmy Charlsen’s bass. The double-percussion team of Das and Edgar Montalvo turn it loose in all the right ways.
Strike the Note, a Bach original, features Al Williams on sax with Lorenzo Sands adding a funky bass. Bach works the Fender Rhodes and the piano to great heights. The melody is indeed a striking one with a tight rhythm section. There is simply nothing not to like. The same can and must be said of the whole album.
Another Bach original, Serenade, is a beautiful piece whose melodic line and even-handed percussion is rapturous. Charlsen’s bass is understated and touch. The vocal backing of Michele Bowman, Karla Chisholm, and Bach himself is really rather touching, adding to the delicacy of the piece in general. The piano is almost Gospel, even hymn-like, in its overall appeal. Beautifully done.
Mood Swing opens with excellent percussion from Montalvo and Das with that sweet bass line from Charlsen. Al Williams’ flute and David Marq’s tenor sax play well together against Bach’s synthesizers. Jenny Langer adds great vocalizations before Leonard Stevens contributes his fine guitar.
Sting’s Roxanne follows next and what a surprise it is. Despite never being a fan of the Police, I was forced to appreciate Bach’s Jazz approach that turns the white bread Pop piece into something with real soul. When I say that this is a far superior version to the original, I’m not kidding. With Rob Zinn’s trumpet taking on the shrieking part of “Put on the red light, put on the red light” ad nauseam, the piece is truly transformed.
Mandalay returns to Bach’s originals. The piano excursions are exciting and cool as Falkowski’s bass clarinet and Marq’s tenor sax make the magic happen. Stevens adds his distinctive voice on electric guitars with the fine drumming of Mark Prince and Charlsen’s bass. It is all around good stuff with excellent piano work and terrific rhythm.
Freddie Mercury’s We Are the Champions is given a fresh look through a bluesy-turned-Jazzy approach. David Marq’s tenor sax and Bach’s piano make for exquisite teamwork as the rhythm section understates the Queen original.
The album concludes with two Bach originals. Trickle Up may very well be a send-up of Reaganomics, or so I hear into it, but it is warm and expressive of the hope that the humanity and generosity and kindness of “those below” may indeed trickle up to those who would be lords and masters. A beautifully warm piece.
The album closes with Taylor, a charming piece of sweet serenity featuring a pared-down group with the flute of Al Williams, Mark Prince on drums, Jeff Reed’s upright bass, and Ekendra Das on percussion. It is an excellent way to end an album.
Fierce Heart is an exciting album full of Gospel, Latin, Pop, and Blues all seen through the Jazz lens of interpretation. The contributing artists never fail to contribute to the masterful compositions and arrangement of David Bach. A first-rate album of extraordinary vision.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
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