Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Kelly Brand Nextet: The Door

Origin Arts
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.1.08
Buy CD: The Door

Kelly Brand is a composer, arranger and pianist and a key fixture in the Chicago jazz scene; this album is the third under her name. 

The liner notes don't clarify what a "Nextet" is, but it doesn't have anything to do with the size of her group, which — for this CD — is a septet. Brand is joined by her husband (and bassist), Kelly Sill, along with Geof Bradfield on tenor sax and flute, Art Davis on trumpet and flugelhorn, Jon Dettemyer on drums and Mari Anne Jayme on vocals. 

Cellist (and daughter) Naomi Sill joins the group on one tune. 

All but one of the songs were composed by Brand, who proves to be both a gifted writer and pianist. The melodies are, to quote famous pianist Marion McPartland (with whom Brand has performed), "written and played with elegance and sensitivity." 

Those descriptors also apply to the artists who make up this group. The melodic lines played by the instrumentalist, either in unison or harmony, are wonderfully soothing while still swinging. The quality of the sidemen is such that their solos meld perfectly with those melodic lines. 

Sill is particularly noteworthy, no doubt due to all the time he has spent performing with many other artists. 

This "Nextet" is not a driving, up-tempo unit, but it's a pleasant group that delivers primo "listening jazz."

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