Tight harmonies and stellar instrumental performances fill up every minute of the stellar vocal jazz album produced by the Jazzanova and Jazzology vocal choirs from the Contra Costa College music department.
It is clear as day that “On a Clear Day” is a well-constructed album that takes the listener through a wide variety of sounds and emotions in the hour-long runtime.
The highlight of the LP are the vocal performances. The album excels in the vocal department in group harmonization. “How We See” is a standout track that exemplifies the tight harmonies achieved by the vocal group. The song is slightly reminiscent to The Police’s classic song “Message in a Bottle” in the verses.
In the six-minute song the vocal and instrumental skills of the group are at their best. The vocal scat solo by Eben Miller in the second verse is impressive. The song closes with a prime example of the layered harmonization as it ends with a harmonized vocal scat.
The four-minute opening track, “He Was the Cat,” establishes the style of the album. In simple terms, the album is cooler than the other side of a pillow. With how tight the vocal and instrumental performances are there is still a sense of freedom with every note that is played by the musicians. This is a testament to the group’s musical knowledge and preparation.
The instrumentation isn’t featured as heavily as the vocals, but it is equally stellar. For what the instrumentation lacks in solos it makes up for in being the perfect backup to the vocals.
The accompaniment consisting of Walter Bankovitch on piano, Carla Kaufman on bass, Greg German on drums, and Kristen Strom on saxophone all have consistent performances that enhance the already great vocals.
The instrumentals get the chance to show what they can do when given the lead in another highlight track, the energetic “Cruisin’ for a Bluesin’.” In the six-minute song each instrument gets a chance to solo and display its exceptional sound. Carla Kaufam, in particular, lays down a solid bass solo which is preceded by a skillful piano solo by Walter Bankovitch. Stephanie Rios and Eben Miller get a chance to lay down a duet scat solo.
Producer Bill Hare, an award- winning contemporary jazz producer, ensured the album was mixed well. Even with the vocal dominated music, the vocals never overpower. Each instrument lays in a nice pocket where they all meld together into one cohesive sound. It’s an impressive job considering this is a relatively small scale album.
There are a few negatives for the album. Some of the songs go on about a minute or so too long. The middle of the LP features some of the less impressive songs on the album.
“Sing a Song of Song” is a mellow track that would be better suited if it were a minute or so shorter. There is a quality piano solo to salvage the song though.
“Mind Trick” closes out the dragging three-song run in the middle portion of the album. It’s really not a bad song. It’s just remarkably average and forgettable.
The album closes with the fun five-minute number “Tight.” The song is a great closing tune. It’s a good example of all that is good with this album. Strong solo vocal performance, great instrumentation, tight harmonization,and style.