Secret Garden Band
Trey Anastasia band
Artist's BiographyIf you listen closely to Unfolding, the extraordinary debut album by Natalie Cressman and her band Secret Garden, she provides all the clues necessary to uncover the treasure trove of influences and inspirations behind her music. Hailing from an illustrious musical family, the San Francisco-raised trombonist, vocalist and composer has been adopted by a disparate cast of masters, and at 21 years old sheâ€™s honed a preternaturally worldly conception of her own.
From Carnegie Hall to the House of Blues, from the Apollo to Lincoln Center, her versatility and enthusiasm for new music has propelled her into a richly diverse musical career. An accomplished improviser who has performed with Nicholas Payton, Wycliffe Gordon, and Peter Apfelbaumâ€™s NY Hieroglyphics Ensemble, sheâ€™s gained her widest exposure through two years of touring with Phishâ€™s Trey Anastasio. At the same time sheâ€™s managed to excel in her studies at Manhattan School of Music and perform at top New York jazz spots with her own band. Unfolding captures her rapidly blossoming sensibility, a sound shaped by her love of Cuban, Brazilian and West African music, indie rock, funk and the post-bop continuum.
Whether playing an original, reinterpreting a standard or exploring a jazz classic, Cressman fully embraces the imperative to render the music in her own image. What her work with Secret Garden reveals is an utterly contemporary artist steeped in several traditions, an artist who sees no barriers between the incalculable accomplishments of the past and the urgent demands of the present.
â€œI wanted to put together an album that shows who I am, standing apart from all the sideman work,â€ Cressman says. â€œI thought this was a great opportunity to pull from modern influences and make jazz relevant to a larger audience, though the music reflects whatâ€™s in my head, and wasnâ€™t tailored to a certain genre or audience.â€
Unfolding opens with â€œFlip,â€ a tune that serves as an introduction to Cressmanâ€™s urbane aesthetic. Itâ€™s a kaleidoscopic piece marked by contrasting sections, from the opening Lee Morgan Blue Note groove to a lilting bossa nova section to the power ballad climax with Cressmanâ€™s ethereal wordless vocal adding to the already thick textures. While Cressman possesses a highly expressive voice on trombone, smooth and gleaming one minute and gruff and earthy the next, the albumâ€™s biggest surprise is her crystalline singing voice, a thing of jaw-dropping beauty.
Part of what makes Unfolding such a enthralling listening experience is the way Cressmanâ€™s voice and horn interact with each other. She turns the Fats Waller/Andy Razaf chestnut â€œHoneysuckle Roseâ€ into a moody R&B seduction, complete with sensuous gliding solo. Her rendition of Mingusâ€™s gorgeous elegy for Lester Young, â€œGoodbye Porkpie Hat,â€ is clearly inspired by Joni Mitchellâ€™s version, though she reharmonizes it around the edges and sets the second half to a propulsive 6/8 Latin groove. She credits Mitchellâ€™s recording with inspiring her to start singing in high school.
As the title suggests, Cressmanâ€™s â€œEchoâ€ is built on interwoven contrapuntal horn lines. Opening like a classical etude, it blooms into a Brazilian-inflected soundscape. Even more striking is â€œReaching for Home,â€ an original lyric Cressman set to an angular melody with vertiginous interval leaps that she executes with balletic grace. The album closes with another stunning original, â€œThat Kind.â€ Joined by Peter Apfelbaum on tenor saxophone, the band gradually dials up the intensity as the rhythm section churns with a rocking maracatu groove.
Cressman was practically weaned on jazz and Brazilian music. Her mother is the esteemed American-born Brazilian jazz vocalist Sandy Cressman, whoâ€™s assembled a vast treasure trove of tunes by Brazilâ€™s best contemporary composers. Her father is recording engineer and trombonist Jeff Cressman, a longtime member of Santana. While Natalie evidenced a real gift for trombone at an early age, as a child she channeled most of her creative energy into dance as a ballet devotee.
When an injury kept her off the barre for three months in her junior year of high school, she turned her focus to music. She quickly started working at a professional level, playing salsa with Uruguayan percussionist Edgardo Cambon e Orquesta Candela, Latin Jazz with Pete Escovedoâ€™s Latin Jazz Orchestra, spiritually charged world music with Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra, Brazilian jazz with Sandy Cressmanâ€™s Homenagem Brasileira, and global avant-garde jazz with Peter Apfelbaum and the New York Hieroglyphics. A close family friend, Apfelbaum stepped in as a mentor for Cressman eventually inviting her to join the New York Hieroglyphics at the 2008 Monterey Jazz Festival.
Taking advantage of the Bay Areaâ€™s many musical opportunities, she earned a spot in virtually every one the regionâ€™s elite high school ensembles, including the Monterey Jazz Festivalâ€™s Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, the GRAMMY Jazz Ensembles, and the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars. Earning a scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music would be heady stuff for most high schoolers, but in 2010, at the age of 18, Cressman joined Trey Anastasio new solo project. She spent parts of 2010-2013 touring with the stylistically expansive jam band, which draws on everything from blues reggae and funk to jazz and Latin grooves. Featured on a number of tunes, she also contributes horn solos and vocals on the live album TAB at the TAB (Rubber Jungle Records) as well as Traveler (Atto Records)
A self-described late bloomer when it comes to music, Cressman credits her spectacularly rich cultural upbringing for providing the creative fuel behind her rapid ascent. With Unfolding, Cressman leaves no doubt sheâ€™s one of the most exciting young players on the New York scene.