Tuesday, June 23, 2009

KIND OF DULL


This is the only music that I listened to today, Christian. I have to be honest with you. I’m not keen on “Kind of Brown”, your debut offering for Mack Avenue Records. You enlisted a stellar cast of marquee jazz musicians such as drummer Carl Allen, pianist Eric Reed, saxophonist Steve Wilson, and vibe-man Warren Wilson Jr.

In theory, this album should’ve been ironclad given the sidemen talent an experience. This time around, you set out to make a straight ahead acoustic jazz album, which honestly is worlds apart from the fusion driven music you’ve championed the last five years of your recording career.

“Kind of Brown” proved—it pains me to say this because you are a sincere dude—assembling an all star date does not necessarily guarantee a blockbuster album, or for that matter an interesting one. I can’t endorse this album, and I’ll tell you why. The biggest issue I have with “Kind of Brown”--which I assumed the title was a play on the Miles Davis classic album “Kind of Blue”, and is dedicated in part to your mentor late bassist Ray Brown--is a have heard this album before. I’m sure most of my readers have as well.

"Live at Tunic” was a more ambitious and adventurous album. You reach the zenith of your creativity on the album, and the jazz at the 2008 Detroit International Jazz Festival got a chance to experience that first hand. With this new released, it is obvious you played it safe.

What’s the point of making an album like-minded jazz musicians have made generation after generation? I had grandiose hopes for your Mack Avenue debut. Frankly, you disappointed me. However, there’re a handful of noteworthy aspects that got my attention.

The most noteworthy aspect was the soloing of pianist Eric Reed. On “Theme for Kareem” and “Stick & Move”, Reed played every square inch of the piano. Like Bud Powell, Reed can drag race across the keys, making it appear as though he played with twenty fingers instead of ten. His soloing rescued the album from being a complete bust.

You stayed true-to-form by not hogging the session even though you’re the leader. The band did not deviate much from the course that you mapped out. Maybe that was the problem. Wilson and Allen were apprehensive about being themselves. Wolf Jr. played as if he’d been recruited from the minor leagues. His playing was careful and rather dull. The press release did not reveal what your long term ambitions are for this quintet. If you plan to keep the band running, my I suggest—let me know if I am out of line—you have a pep talk with the guys, and encourage them to loosen up a bit.
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