Although the list of great jazz valve trombonists is not a particularly long one, a name that may be added along with Juan Tizol, Bob Brookmeyer, Rob McConnell, and Rich Matteson is Mike Fahn. Fahn’s CD Close Your Eyes. . . And Listen is an example of beautiful highly sophisticated writing/arranging, and thought provoking, virtuoso level performing.
The overall tone of Close Your Eyes. . . And Listen is quite serious and contemplative. Fahn’s technique on the valve trombone demonstrates a lightness and agility that is certainly part of navigating the melodic angularity of music in the Bop tradition. Fahn also demonstrates his writing talents contributing two original compositions in collaboration with his wife Mary Ann McSweeney. Of particular note is the piece "The Burren," in which Fahn becomes his own trombone quartet through the "magic" of overdubbing. Another Fahn/McSweeney original "Get Sparky" is a funk infused tune in the spirit of the music of 1970’s Miles Davis.
Fahn, a veteran performer with many notable leaders, also allows ample opportunity for his sidemen to demonstrate their talents. In addition to his tasteful soloing and the consistent rhythmic groove that he lays down, bassist and CD producer Jay Anderson, also arranged the deeply profound Keith Jarrett composition "Survivor’s Suite." Anderson also penned the lightly swinging original "On Time," and the up-tempo burner "Will Call." "Will Call" also features the intense soloing of saxophonist Rick Margitza, who contributed his original tune "Heart Forest" for the CD. Rounding out the remaining tunes are McSweeney’s arrangement of the title cut "Close Your Eyes," and her original composition "Without Changes." McSweeney’s arrangement is a fresh and invigorating approach to this standard, and her original bossa nova inspired "Without Changes," is exemplary of sophisticated modern jazz that, while staying in the mainstream, intently impels the parameters of melodic and harmonic interaction. Also not to be overlooked are the immense solo chops of guitarist Steve Cardenas, and the solid foundation provided by keyboardist Charles Blenzig and drummer Tim Horner.
Close Your Eyes. . .And Listen combines a stylish understated drive like that found in the early 1960’s Bill Evans trio, with contrapuntal melodicism similar to that found in the 1950’s Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker quartets and improvisational interactions that bring to mind collaborations between Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond. All this and more adds up to an excellent listening excursion. Mike Fahn’s Close Your Eyes. . .And Listen would definitely be an excellent addition to any jazz fan’s CD collection.