Bill Heller’s fierce energy propels the repertoire of Passage and his alert musicality is superbly brought to life by astute and virtuosic musicians who pay it [Mr Heller’s musicianship] forward with their excellent, highly idiomatic performances. Mr Heller, of course, paid his dues in the studios and on stage for decades. His contributions to The Rippingtons, Steve Jordan, Smoky Robinson Patti Austin, Mary Wilson and scores of other celebrated artists have already made him a celebrated, first call musician, wherever great music is created.
Now is the time for his genius for composition, arranging and orchestrations on a very large palette to shine one again, this time with a swinging, swaggering collection of songs. Primary colours abound in the orchestral texture of this music – sometimes highlighted by trumpet or trombone, saxophone or flute. There is plenty of action, no matter where you plant your ear. The faster sections of “March Forth”, for instance, keeps the music on a tight rein, with rhythms and phrasing that are precise and alert. In slower, more meditative, music such as “The Flow” and the Debussy’s classic “Clair de Lune” each phrase is meticulously shaped so that the performances emerge as profound documents.
Whether in the shuffling or swagger of this chamber music or in the elegiac roundness of the more meditative pieces an appropriately rhapsodic or reverential romanticism is always maintained. Soloists are given a wide enough berth to make meaningful inroads into the melodic lines and explore harmonic journeys. Each of the soloists listed below acquit themselves with distinction. Flutist Paula Atherton is particularly noteworthy on “Looking Ahead” as is guitarist Jonathan Butler on “”March Forth”. Overall each of the musicians’ performances is as delightful as the music; melody is well and flawlessly to the fore as is harmony and rhythm. Mr Heller’s radiance and his soaring pianism abound everywhere.
Track list – 1: Passage; 2: March Forth; 3: Trying to Get Back Home; 4: Again Later; 5: Viaggio; 6: FT Shuffle: 7: Journey’s End; 8: The Flow; 9: Looking Ahead; 10: Clair de Lune; 11: Last Train; 12: Leaving Orbit
Personnel – Bill Heller: compositions [1 – 9, 11, 12], all arrangements and production, and keyboards; Rico Belled: bass [1, 5, 7]; Will Lee: bass ; Dave Anderson: bass [3, 4, 6, 11] and fretless bass ; Mike Hall: bass ; Dave Karasony: drums [1, 5, 7, 12]; Steve Jordan: drums ; Joel Rosenblatt: drums [3, 4, 8]; Frank Bellucci: drums ; Brian Dunne: drums ; John Arrucci: steel pan  and percussion [1, 8]; Ronnie Gutierrez: percussion [3, 5, 7, 9]; Russ DeSalvo: guitar ; Jonathan Butler: guitar [featured on 2]; Allen Hinds: guitar [4, featured on 12]; Marc Antoine: guitar ; Jay Prince: guitar ; Ken Navarro: guitar [featured on 7]; Dan Levine: trombones [1, 12]; Ozzie Melendez: trombone [2, 4]; Jens Wendelboe: trombone ; Rheagan Osteen: French horn [1, 12]; Dave Mann: woodwinds ; John Scarpulla: tenor and baritone saxophones ; Andy Snitzer: tenor saxophone [featured on 11]; Brandon Fields: alto saxophone [6, 7]; Jeff Kashiwa: soprano saxophone [featured on 8]; Paula Atherton: flute [featured on 9]; Barry Daniellan: trumpet [2, 4; Jerry Sokolov: trumpet ; Luis Mercado: cello 
Released – 2021
Label – billunatic music
Runtime – 44:21