Peter Martyr | Issue 16 | 2019
As a child, Nate Misri was forever recording mix-tapes on fossilized MiniDiscs. In his impressionable years, he obtained a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance at McGill University, located in the heart of Canada’s arts and cultural capital, Montréal. After briefly trying his hand at a professional career—singing in smoky jazz clubs by night and teaching music to the likes of lawyers’ kids by day—he decided to pivot and pursue a career in law. Called to the bar in New York, in his down time he could be found taking in the Jazz at Lincoln Center. Music still plays a significant role in the rhythm of Nate’s day-to-day life. Here are his picks and liner notes for an extended, isolated, distanced listen to some life-giving notes during the pandemic. Music provides the soundtrack to life.
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
‘Trane did not generally record with singers in his all-too-short career; this is the single studio album he did. And Hartman did not consider himself a jazz singer per se. So, with Coltrane’s ‘Classic Quartet’ backing him, the ensemble is a little unusual. The musicianship though, is undeniable. This album demonstrates the high water mark of jazz dialogue between singer, horn-player and a responsive rhythm section. At just over thirty minutes, it is the perfect accompaniment to a weeknight dinner. ‘Lush Life’ is my favorite track and it is written by one of my favorite composers, Billy Strayhorn.
I used to listen to the title-track of Maiden Voyage to get focused before law-school exams. Yes, I was ‘that guy’ in the corner of the room with over-the-ear headphones, a hoodie and Wayne Shorter’s tenor sax improvisations blaring into my ears. This album is subtle and sophisticated. It contains all of the dynamic elements of a band completely at ease with each other’s playing: quality, unity, integrity—am I right? Herbie Hancock is a living legend and tours the world at all the international jazz festivals when not in global lockdown. Check him out if you can.
PORTRAIT IN JAZZ
Anyone who composes music, of any genre, knows that the piano is a superior tool for mapping harmony and rhythm. Lucky for us, Bill Evans was master at both. While Maiden Voyage is an egalitarian treatment of the other instrumentalists in the band, this album is all about the ivory. As a student of jazz history, I am a sucker for jazz standards and this album satisfies on that score. And there’s more: Bill Evans’ prodigious compositional talent is mixed in with just enough rhythm, blues and classical to pique the interest of those who want something fresh as well as a traditional approach to jazz standards played by a jazz master.
YOUR FAVOURITE STREAMING SERVICE PLAYLIST...
I studied under a number of iconic Canadian jazz musicians, including the original Canadian vocal jazz diva, Ranee Lee (eat your heart out, Diana Krall)! But the Mecca of jazz is Manhattan, and we were fortunate to have a number of legendary musicians head north-of-the-border to give masterclasses at McGill. Mark Murphy was one of these jazz masters. A gifted pianist, drummer and lyricist, he signed as a ‘teen idol’ in the 1950s with Capitol Records. Murphy’s eight-decade career shifted rapidly from commercial pop through to crooner and finally to trailblazer in a post-Sinatra vocal jazz era. Murphy has so many albums it is impossible for me to pick a favorite, so I encourage you to search for him on your favorite music-streaming app. If you have a favorite song, chances are he has performed it and maybe even written the lyric.
Mark Murphy died in 2015. My favorite story—from my ‘starving student’ days scrounging cash to pay for said masterclass—was his insistence that I pay him in Cuban cigars (which he could not then purchase legally in the US).
If I were to draw you a Venn diagram, encircling Stevie Wonder, Erikah Badu, D’Angelo, Kendrick Lamar and a handful of dream-pop, funk and 90s R&B artists, they would overlap at Frank Ocean. True, it’s not traditional jazz, but the summer has set in in Canada as I write this, and for me nothing pairs better with a cold beer, sunshine and two meters of social distance than a drop of Ocean. ‘Pyramids’ is my favorite track on Channel Orange. It’s a ten-minute urban symphony, short enough to keep even us Millennials engaged.
First published in RE: issue 17 (2020). Illustration by Ivan Maslarov
© Norton Rose Fulbright LLP 2020