Friday, March 7, 2014

Tom Kennedy: Just Play

Capri Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Just Play

The more albums I review, the more I become convinced that the prime age for jazz artists begins in their 50s and 60s. The all-star group fronted for this album by bassist Tom Kennedy is proof positive. Kennedy, drummer Dave Weckl, pianist Renee Rosnes, trumpeter Tim Hagans and trombonist John Allred are in their 50s; tenor saxmen Steve Wirts and George Garzone, and guitarists Mike Stern and Lee Ritenour, are in their 60s. These artists aren’t old; they’re at the top of their craft!

Further, several are masters on their instruments. Weckl is one of the best big-band drummers I’ve ever heard; he reads arrangements impeccably, catches every inflection and emphasis, and drives the entire group marvelously, without getting in the way of the soloists. That said, his own solos always are works of art. Kennedy is equally talented on the bass; he began studying on the upright instrument, then added electric models to his arsenal. His ability to produce more complex chords and blazing speeds on electric basses carried over to the uprights, his instrument of choice on this album. His dexterity on solo passages is breathtaking.

Rosnes has been a first-call jazz artist for years, but remains relatively unknown to the public, and I don’t know why. Perhaps a partial explanation lies in her Canadian heritage, and the fact that she began her musical career in the classical genre. She was turned onto jazz by a high school teacher. Even so, she was performing classical concerts in the early 1980s, and was awarded a Canada Council of the Arts grant before moving to New York City to further her studies. After joining Joe Henderson’s quartet in ’86, she turned to jazz with a vengeance. She has played with the jazz Who’s Who, and has an extensive discography in our favorite genre. I’ve become a huge fan; she’s a great straight-ahead artist.

Every member of this group is excellent, and the album title perfectly describes its contents. This is pure, swinging, exciting music, and the artists obviously are having a ball.

The menu includes compositions that have become key elements of the
jazz dictionary: Bobby Timmons’ “Moanin’,” Freddie Hubbard’sCeora,” Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood,” Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way,” Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” and several others

You’ll love this release!

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