For many years, trumpeter-vocalist Nate Birkey has been steadily honing his distinctive art form, that of making a "mainstream jazz" statement at once warm and creatively vibrant, true to tradition but also willing to break molds for a musical purpose. For several years, the Colorado native was based in Santa Barbara, California, where he had studied at UC Santa Barbara after attending Berklee School of Music in Boston. But an eastward move to New York in 2005 has broadened Birkey's horizons and deepened both his artistic resolve and his musical evolution. With the release of \'Almost Home\', his fifth album for the Santa Barbara-based Household Ink label, Birkey takes another step upward and outward, on his first recording made with his NYC-based group. Saxist Sal Giorgianni, pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Marko Marcinko (also the album's co-producer, with Birkey) make up the core members of Birkey's long-favored quintet format. Guests include guitarist Vic Juris, pianist Steve Rudolph, and Café on congas. Deftly mixing standards tastefully delivered (Cole Porter's "All of You" Michel Legrand's "Little Boy Lost"), warm and imaginative originals in various genre leanings, and material from less-trodden sources-i.e. Willie Nelson's "I'm Falling in Love," and Ennio Morricone's theme from Cinema Paradiso-the album continues Birkey's engaging way with a song, as a fluid improviser and vocalist of understated grace. If there is a romantic tendency in Birkey's music, with it's unabashed nods to Chet Baker's influence and an appreciation of Italianate beauty, as heard in Sandro Deidda's opening tune, "Bianca," Birkey keeps musicality and intelligence high, never settling for easy sentiment. This summer, Birkey will be presenting his bold new project in a series of CD release shows, in the U.S. and Europe. Almost Home is both an affirmation of where Birkey has been and a solid indictator of where he's headed, as one of the more intriguing "new"-yet mature and self-aware--voices on the current jazz scene. His sound is timeless and timely, emotionally true and going places. "Nate Birkey, he of mysterious charisma, subtle gossamer trumpet lines and understated voice, hunches over the microphone and leans into his phrases, shutting out the world." Josef Woodard, Los Angeles Times.
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