Nicole McCabe: Landscapes

LA-based saxophonist and composer McCabe is likely to appeal to those who appreciate such as Sonny Criss, Martin Speake and Anna Koroleva


From the first notes of bassist Logan Kane’s authoritative pizzicato introduction to leader McCabe’s floating, turning and building opener, OMW, you sense you’re in for something special here – an impression quickly confirmed by pianist Paul Cornish’s fine touch (and relish his rhythmic verve on the richly cast, driving title track) as well as drummer Myles Martin’s tasty way with a crisp and focused range of telling cross accents.

As elegant and reflective as it is exploratory and passionate, the strongly melodic Landscapes is McCabe’s second release, following her 2020 Introducing Nicole McCabe. A composer and instrumentalist from California’s Marin County, McCabe has a lovely, full and diversely inflected alto sound – hear her affecting introduction to Finding Beauty – and can swing and “sing” in the most appealing, rhythmically and harmonically sprung post-bop manner. 

As far as I can gather, currently McCabe lives and works in Los Angeles, where she earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, having studied with Vince Mendoza, Patrice Rushen and Russell Ferrante. She began to lead her own quartet in 2018 and appeared at the Portland Jazz Festival that year with further performances there in the following years. On the strength of this release, I can only think that she’ll soon be in demand at many another festival, both in and outside America.

I’ve yet to hear a disappointing release from the New Talent side of Jordi Pujol’s remarkable Fresh Sound label and McCabe’s Landscapes is right up there with the best of them. The unison vocal touches which Genevieve Artadi brings to Portsmouth are scarcely needed, so assured is McCabe’s literate lyricism. If you’re drawn to, say, Sonny Criss, Martin Speake or Anna Koroleva, you won’t want to miss this thoroughly engaging programme of all-original material from McCabe and her admirably attuned colleagues. Satisfaction guaranteed!

(1) OMW; Barbary; Finding Beauty In An Unexpected Place; Foglight; Landscapes; (2) Portsmouth; (1) Bishop (44.39)
(1) McCabe (as); Paul Cornish (p); Logan Kane (b); Myles Martin (d). Glendale, California, 9 March 2022.
(2) as (1) plus Genevieve Artadi (v).
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 642