A cello in jazz music? You read it correctly. The instrument normally associated with classical music has been skillfully adapted in this easy-listening jazz release by Toronto-based cellist Kye Marshall.
Say When has a great atmospheric presence, with Marshall's cello truly something to listen to. She manages to weave beautiful compositions not only for cello, but also for her jazz quartet, which totes a very talented crew: Marshall on cello, Don Thompson on piano, Kevin Barrett on guitar, Jim Vivian on bass, and Terry Clarke on drums. Each musician brings a strong musical presence to each track, whether in solo or as a whole.
The cello stands out all over the album, it's definitely a unique instrument with a wide range of uses and expressions. The sounds are clean, crisp, and sometimes eerie - it must be that haunting cello tone, as well as the activist theme of the CD.
Say When is nine original tracks of socially charged music. Marshall dedicates the album "...to those who organize to protect the ecosystem, oppose government policies harmful to the environment, risk injury and incarceration at protests, challenge corporate interests, and encourage development of renewable energies."
Most musical releases rely on the strength of the expressed word, vocals if you will, but Marshall takes a theme and zigzags the ups and downs of good musicianship and expresses a concern. The cello, with all its sounds, replaces the vocals nicely.
Tracks like "www.com" starts off with a classic jazz drum intro, then jumps into a fairly lively mix of all the other instruments, but when it's time to make a point it's the cello that takes centre stage.
Some people don't like a good jazz album, while others can't wait for their next jazz injection. It's really a personal thing, but Marshall in many ways finds a path around those musical biases and plants her foot to your ear.
The only criticism is that not many people can sit back and listen to jazz, even if that means missing out on a very interesting addition to the genre - the cello. You really have to like jazz to get the point/theme of Say When.