Range, available September 18, 2015 on Whirlwind Recordings, marks jazz guitarist Pete McCann's fifth release as a leader. Range, which finds McCann exploring the breadth and depth of his formidable artistry as a guitarist, composer and bandleader, features an incomparable cast of some of New York City's finest musicians; John O'Gallagher-alto sax, Henry Hey-piano, Rhodes and organ, Matt Clohesy-acoustic & electric bass and Mark Ferber-drums.
The music on Range encompasses a wide variety of musical styles and genres, showcasing McCann's and the ensemble's "range" as they expertly and delightfully delve into straight-ahead, post-bop, avant garde, Latin, and jazz-rock fusion. Range is the follow up to McCann's previous critically-acclaimed releases, Extra Mile (Nineteen-Eight), Most Folks (Omnitone), Parable and You Remind Me of Someone (both on Palmetto). Range opens with the driving, melodious, Kenny, an homage to the late, great, Kenny Wheeler, with whom McCann had the good fortune to study with in 1988 at the Banff Summer Jazz Workshop. He later performed and recorded with Wheeler in a large ensemble led by the Belgian saxophonist, Erwin Vann in 1997. Wheeler's unique sound on the trumpet and flugelhorn, and his beautiful compositional style, resonates with McCann on a very personal level, as reflected in this composition. Seventh Jar was inspired by the Indian spiritual tale in which a man finds six and a half jars filled with gold. He becomes obsessed with filling the seventh jar never realizing that he should stop and have gratitude for what he already has. McCann and the ensemble perfectly capture the mystery of this ancient story with a contemplative, searching melody. Realm "was written with the great pianist Richie Beirach in mind. I am a longtime fan of Richie's playing and his dark harmonic sensibility," explained McCann. Like most musicians of McCann's caliber, he is an avid listener, and To the Mountains was inspired by a melodic fragment he heard on God Bless America. It is the guitarist's tribute to the true sonic genius of guitarist Bill Frisell, and will stand as a testament to McCann's talent in taking a small melodic fragment and crafting a beautiful, contemplative ballad from it. Mustard is a lively tune with an interesting set of odd meters at the end of the A section: 7/8, 6/8 and 7/8. The bass riff centers around the major 3rd axis split, Ab/C/E.
Other highlights on Range include Dyad Changes, written with Anton Webern in mind. A few years ago John O'Gallagher invited McCann to perform and record with the Anton Webern Project. "Studying O'Gallagher's take on Webern gave me the idea to write in that style over rhythm changes", said McCann; Numinous is based on a 12 tone row. Each of the 12 tones provides the roots for the underlying harmony of the A section, then the tone row comes back on its own in the B section as a backdrop for improvisation; Bridge Scandal, inspired by "Bridgegate" an unfortunate event that many suspect Chris Christie (governor of New Jersey), to have orchestrated. The underlying harmony of the A section is very similar to the middle section or 'bridge' of Bill Evans' Time Remembered; Rumble is an homage to the remarkable saxophonist, Lee Konitz. "I was very fortunate to work with Lee in the Lee Konitz Nonet, led by saxophonist Ohad Talmor, and also recently with saxophonist Grace Kelly," said McCann; Mine Is Yours is a composition that simply, but captivatingly, delves into McCann's fascination with harmony.
A native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, McCann has been an integral part of the New York City jazz scene for more than twenty-five years, during which time he has been a first-call sideman, and an indispensable part of over eighty CDs. He has performed throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe from the most prestigious clubs and jazz festivals, to musicals, award shows, and even an opera. McCann regularly works with Grace Kelly, Chris Tarry, Melissa Stylianou, Dan Willis, Ben Kono, Asuka Kakitani and Alison Wedding, and has performed with some of the greatest in jazz, including Kenny Wheeler, Dave Liebman, Lee Konitz, Patti Austin, Bobby Previte, Brian Blade, and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. He received his Bachelors of Music degree from the University of North Texas, has studied at the Banff School of the Arts, and currently teaches at City College of New York and the New School in New York City.