For many years, trumpeter-vocalist Nate Birkey has been steadily honing his distinctive art form, that of making a “mainstream jazz” statement at once warm and creatively vibrant, true to tradition but also willing to break molds for a musical purpose. A Colorado native, Nate attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Seattle Pacific University, and the University of California Santa Barbara, where he remained based for many years after. An eastward move to New York City in 2005 broadened his horizons and deepened both his artistic resolve and his musical evolution.
With back-to-back 2008 releases of Almost Home, his sixth album, and Christmas, his seventh, for the California-based Household Ink label, Birkey takes another step upward and outward, on his first recordings made with his NYC-based group. Pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Marko Marcinko make up the core members of Birkey’s quartet, with guest pianist Steve Rudolph, and guitarist Vic Juris.
A tasteful and moody mix of holiday classics with imaginative arrangements done by Birkey and pianist Rudolph,—the album continues Nate’s engaging way with a song, as a fluid improviser and vocalist of understated grace. If there is a romantic tendency in Birkey’s music, with unabashed nods to Chet Baker and Miles Davis, Birkey keeps musicality and intelligence high, never settling for easy sentiment.
2008 has been a productive year for Birkey, with the July release of Almost Home, tours in the U.S., Canada and Europe, and his Christmas release - it is a clear affirmation of where Birkey has been and a solid indicator of where he’s headed, as one of the more intriguing “new”—yet mature and self-aware--voices on the current jazz scene. His sound is timeless and timely, emotionally true and going places.
“Nate Birkey, he of mysterious charisma, subtle gossamer trumpet lines and understated voice, hunches over the microphone and leans into his phrases, shutting out the world.”
- Josef Woodard, Los Angeles Times