Nate Birkey
Gig Seeker Pro

Nate Birkey

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE | AFM

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE | AFM
Band Jazz Latin


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Almost Home Review by Bill Milkowski"

San Diego native and recent New York transplant Nate Birkey shifts easily from unabashed romanticism (“Bianca,” “Theme From Cinema Paradiso”) to blues (“Almost Home”) to sensitive Chet Baker-meets-Michael Franks singer mode (Cole Porter’s “All of You,” Willie Nelson’s “I’m Falling in Love Again,” Michel Legrand’s “Little Boy Lost” and his original bossa “Sing to Me”). He makes his most forceful statements, though, on originals like the 12/8 groover “The Promise” and the all-out swinger “Tuesdays on the Ridge.” - Jazz Times

"Christmas CD Review by Victor Schermer"

This may be the most laid back Christmas album ever. The more typical holiday records bring to mind sleigh-bells, snowmen, parties, families, caroling, mistletoe, chestnuts on an open fire, and fond memories of past holidays. What comes to mind in connection with Nate Birkey: Christmas are dry martinis, The New Yorker magazine, twilights by the ocean, and being half-asleep as embers glow in the fireplace. Even though the songs are mostly regulars for Christmas and New Years, the style provides a pleasant contrast to the standard holiday fare.
The inspiration for the album, as printed on the inner liner notes, is a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It contrasts the sounds of Christmas Bells with the cannon shots of the Civil War, acknowledging the hard realities of conflict while asserting the enduring power of peace. The poem and the CD are both certainly appropriate for the difficult times in which we live.
Nate Birkey combines jazz trumpet/flugelhorn and vocals in the laconic manner of Chet Baker, but without Baker's existential dread. By contrast, he mixes the blue notes with gentle kindness, to provide a sound that is comforting yet questioning of some cherished expectations, such as in this instance, that Christmas is a hyperactive celebratory time. After all, the One whose birth we celebrate was, in the words of Handel's Messiah "a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief," and it is after all winter, when the leaves are gone from the trees and the earth is frozen over with snow.
Birkey's "Silent Night" bears a genuine breath of silence, and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" reflects the shyness of a young man tentatively trying to date a woman he has put on a pedestal. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" breaks the tender heart, while "Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah" is the sleekest hora ever recorded. Birkey has a Mennonite background, and there is something of their quiet humility in every note on this album. It is touching, as it is contemplative, with just a splash of romance and nostalgia.
Birkey has a way of gathering together a small group of fine musicians, real artisans of their craft, to join him on his CDs such as Almost Home (House Ink Records, 2008) and this one is no exception. The accompaniment is impeccable, with pianists Jim Ridl and Steve Rudolph joined by Tony Marino on bass and Marko Marcinko on drums. Guitarist Vic Juris makes an appearance on "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and when combined with Birkey's sophisticated horn improvisations, the quality of the music itself is quietly stunning. While Birkey's music is generally understated, it always has a way of getting inside and impressing with its sincerity and finely-honed expressiveness. This album is no exception.
- All About Jazz

"Lee Mergner's Holiday CD Roundup"

With his muted trumpet and hush-a-bye vocal style, Birkey recalls a healthy Chet Baker. His modern-yet-classic-sounding group rolls through tunes like “Silent Night” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” The piano chair is split between two very underrated modern players—Jim Ridl and Steve Rudolph—but there’s no shifting of style or momentum, at least in part because they both swing so well with the very tight rhythm section of Tony Marino and Marko Marcinko.
On the instrumental cuts, the band recalls vintage Prestige-era Miles Davis, and even when they shift rhythmic gears to a loping funk on “We Three Kings,” the music still swings mightily. Birkey adds a Hanukkah tune to the mix, and even the Jewish-born and reborn Bob Dylan didn’t do that. Without question, this is one of the gems in this year’s batch of holiday releases.
- Jazz Times

"Shortest Day Review by Florence Wetze"

Make way for Nate Birkey, a talented trumpeter/vocalist/composer who has been honing his talents in the Santa Barbara jazz scene and is now getting the national exposure he deserves. Birkey's latest release, Shortest Day , recorded live in 2004, showcases his considerable gifts and puts him front and center among jazz's most promising musicians.

The CD is composed of eight tracks, an eclectic mix including Mingus' “Nostalgia in Times Square,” the hymn “Abide with Me,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “You are Always on My Mind,” as well as two excellent originals. The song choice gives a sense of Birkey's range. In the age-old tradition of West Coast jazz musicians, Birkey has worked extensively as a studio musician, and judging from Shortest Day he is certainly capable of soulful expression in a wide range of moods. On “Autumn Leaves” Birkey's trumpet is piercing and melancholy; on his composition “Indelibly You” he sings and soars with a joyfulness reminiscent of Dixieland and “Nostalgia in Times Square” boasts a tight hard bop front line of Birkey and tenor saxophonist Justin Claveria.

In an embarrassment of riches, in addition to Birkey's excellent trumpet work and compositional skills, he also sings. His voice has a unique quality, gentle and wistful on “Always on My Mind” and ”Tennessee Waltz” and joyfully swinging on “Indelibly You.” Birkey's vocals are infectious; his phrasing is spot-on and he is a master of saying much by saying little. (And if you like his singing, check out his earlier release Ballads , composed entirely of vocals.) Although still based in Santa Barbara, Birkey will be in town for a CD release party, so be sure to come out and hear him for yourself.

-Florence Wetzel - lAll About Jazz New York

"Almost Home Review by Victor Schermer"

This laid-back, mostly cool jazz album with echoes of the West Coast 1950s sound also bespeaks a certain dramatic intensity. Further, it invokes a shade of country blues as it goes along. Nate Birkey's trumpet and vocal renditions of both his own songs and some standards are enjoyable to hear, partly because they are strongly reminiscent of Chet Baker (with muted resonances to Miles Davis) while representing Birkey's own persona and interpretations, which possess a sincerity that contrasts with Baker's existential sense of being “lost” in space.
Birkey probes the depths of the blues idiom without ever losing faith in something meaningful beyond the horizon. With the lines, “I'm falling in love again, And if I lose or win, How will I know?,” from Willie Nelson's “I'm Falling in Love Again,” he reaches poignant depths of woundedness that recur in “Little Boy Lost,” but Birkey nevertheless conveys a feeling of acceptance and hope. He thus probes our human vulnerability without falling victim to it. He exemplifies in music what the American poet, James Wright, called “the pure clear word”—honest, heartfelt expression that never lapses into sentimentality or self-pity.
There are also times when the pace picks up, and the group swings with lusty enthusiasm. On the two Birkey originals—”The Promise,” featuring fine percussion work with a Latin flair, and “Tuesdays on the Ridge”—saxophonist Sal Giorgianni does some lively solo work, backed by pianist Jim Ridl's usual sharp comping.
Birkey, who not too long ago migrated from Los Angeles to New York City, has found his element on the East Coast with a group of sidemen who complement him brilliantly, bringing a touch of warmth and complexity into the equation while highlighting Birkey's cool simplicity. Ridl, bassist Tony Marino, and drummer Marko Marcinko have all done time with the masterful saxophonist David Liebman, which means they know jazz inside out and are instinctively in synch with one another. Giorgianni possesses a gruff yet lyrical timbre reminiscent of Zoot Sims, while guitarist Vic Juris, another Liebman alum, evokes a country flavor in a cameo appearance on Nelson's tune and lets it all hang out on Birkey's “Sing to Me.” This is an album that can be enjoyed from the standpoint of the instrumental accompaniment alone.
Too many jazz recordings today reflect attempts to squeeze the last drop of virtuosity and clever turns of phrase from the proud legacy of the idiom, mixing it with various flavors of classical and world music. This album is instead straightforwardly a man's expression of who he is, and that is the true essence of jazz. Eminently listenable, Almost Home is also a valid musical expression of the human heart.
- All About Jazz

"Rocky Mountain News"

All you have to do is look at his two current CDs, The Mennonite and the vocal driven Ballads, to see his affinity for Chet Baker. On both, the trumpeter strikes a pose musically and physically that is very Chet like. But the sounds are solid, and Birkey definitely deserves a place on the impressive list of trumpeters with a Denver connection.

-Norman Provizer - Norman Provisor

"All About Jazz - The Mennonite review"

"Nate Birkey's trumpet rings with a clarion tone, as his quintet interprets straight-ahead ideas. Acoustic, and derived both from jazz and blues traditions, his session favors original compositions. Birkey's sense of the modern mainstream includes light Latin reflections, moody trumpet daydreams, cohesive ensemble play, and a bit of adventurous growth. The album is a clear winner. Nods to Miles Davis are everywhere. When the trumpeter steps forward, his ballad tone takes over. There are classical music overtones. Several of the pieces proceed suitelike, telling stories through their myriad mood changes. The title track - a loose, bouncy affair - adds guitars to color with a contemporary brush. Guest Joe Woodard elevates Birkey's straight-ahead piece to the leading edge. This is where today's jazz should be. The tradition remains intact, while familiar elements from rock, pop, and world music serve to provide an avenue for growth."

-Jim Santella - Jim Santella

"All About Jazz - Ballads review"

"Nate Birkey sings each of the classic songs on his ballads album. Like Michael Franks and Chet Baker, he possesses a fragile, upper-register voice that floats lightly on the breeze. And, like both singers, he colors his performance with light pastels. Birkey has taken care to avoid messin' with these familiar tunes. Interludes by trumpet, guitar, bass, vibraphone or piano settle in nicely and complement the singer. The eerie guitar sustains on "Hi Lili, Hi Lo" seem to indicate a desire to alter the scene somewhat. For this one piece, a mild-mannered cabaret mood is surrounded by strange electric guitar sensations. It's as if their late night concert hall were experiencing the front lines of a winter storm...Throughout the session, the band supports by improvising brief solos, and each member finds a way to add something fresh. Whether it's quoting Monk during a Kurt Weill song, clicking a drum cadence on an Alec Wilder tune, or waxing acoustic Latin via a Gershwin number, these Household Ink artists provide mild adventures."

-Jim Santella - Jim Santella

"Santa Barbara Independent reviews"

"Nate Birkey and his Quintet have dropped two new albums on us recently, some kind of reward for waiting three years since his debut, Indelibly You. Taken together they point backward and forward, and show where one of Santa Barbara's most talented ensembles currently stands. The Mennonite, in places, sounds like a great, long-lost Blue Note album, circa 1961... this is prime post-bop material with detours into Latin Jazz and 70's funk, and always intriguing playing from the quintet. On Ballads, Birkey's hushed vocals are as delicate as rice paper, and on numbers like "But Not For Me", seem to float away before your ears."

-Ted Mills - Ted Mills


Tight, focused playing by the band and a set of solid compositions by the leader make this an enjoyable set.

-Michael Laprarie - Michael Laprarie

"Connect Savannah review"

"The timbre of his disarmingly soft and reedy voice is itself closely akin to the sound he gets out of his horn, and it is precisely these unexpected and melancholy vocals that - combined with his seemimgly effortless skill on the trumpet - have most critics rushing to compare him with the late Chet Baker."

-Jim Reed - Jim Reed

"Cadence Magazine"

"The third and fourth albums by trumpeter / singer Nate Birkey and his excellent colleagues contrast greatly. The Mennonite, with its essentially Hard-Bop orientation, suggests the music once associated with the Blue Note studios. The pensive Ballads seems derived more from West Coast cool... Both recordings feature creatively varied arrangements. The players are strong musicians, with Birkey himself being something of a cross between Miles Davis and Chet Baker."

-David Franklin - David Franklin

"All Music Guide - Ballads review"

"Nate Birkey has a lithe trumpet sound and slight, soft vocal delivery that will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Chet Baker... His trumpet playing is more plaintive and even closer to Miles Davis' minimalist approach than Baker's ever was. Ballads is a recording of just that, and a nice introduction to Birkey's "medium cool" aesthetic. With creative group arrangements that often feature vibraphone, he breathes atmospheric life into "For All We Know" and "I Will Wait For You". This is touching and pleasant afterglow music."

-Matt Collar - Matt Collar


"There is a mystical quality to Nate birkey that manifests itself in both his vocals and trumpet style. Birkey has been compared to both Miles Davis and Chet Baker, and his playing has more than a touch of the former and a whole lot of the latter. And Mr. Birkey with a nod to his influences, adds his own message that makes this recording (Ballads) a most enjoyable endeavor."

-John Gilbert - John Gilbert


Nate Birkey, "Christmas" - 2008
Nate Birkey, "Almost Home" - 2008
Nate Birkey Quintet, "Shortest Day" - 2004
Nate Birkey Quintet, "The Mennonite" - 2001
Nate Birkey Quintet, "Ballads" - 2001
Nate Birkey Quintet, "Indelibly You" - 1998
The Avant Gardeners, "Blue" - 1993
The Avant Gardeners. "Kickin' It" - 1991



Nate lives in New York City and has been working with some of the area’s finest musicians. His current quintet includes pianist Jim Ridl; saxophonist Sal Giorgianni; drummer Marko Marcinko; and bassist Tony Marino. Nate recorded two albums in 2008, Almost Home and Christmas (Household Ink Records) – his 7th and 8th as a leader, and has a loyal and growing fan base across the United States, Canada and Europe.

Nate recently opened for famed Jazz chanteuse and pianist Diana Krall on her Quiet Nights tour. He is also one of many musicians featured in a new book by Cicily Janus titled The New Face of Jazz, published by Random House Inc.. Released in July 2010, it is an intimate look at today's living legends and the artists of tomorrow.
As a studio musician Nate has appeared on over sixty different recordings, and has performed with among others, pianists Roger Kellaway, Gerald Clayton, Mark Soskin, Doug Carn and Steve Rudolph; saxophonists Phil Woods and Dave Liebman, drummers Bill Goodwin, Ignacio Berroa, and Mike Clark; and bassists Francoise Moutin and David Piltch. Nate has made television appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America; has been invited to play at music festivals throughout Europe, Canada and the U.S..

Nate spent his early childhood in South Bend, Indiana before moving to Colorado at the age 10. He began studying piano at age six, but soon picked up the trumpet after discovering his father’s old cornet in the closet "I believe the instrument chose me - it felt more natural."
Nate attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston where he studied Jazz performance and composition and later went on to study classical trumpet and composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Nate has recently received awards from the Santa Barbara Arts Fund and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

Critics have compared Nate Birkey's subtle vocal and trumpet approach to that of Chet Baker and Miles Davis respectively - a sound poised and assured, powerfully stark and spare, creating an atmosphere at once solitary and electric. He is one of the more intriguing “new”—yet mature and self-aware--voices on the current jazz scene, having a sound that is timeless and timely, emotionally true and going places.