What do you get when you combine a record label known for sweating all the details with an extremely talented A/R director/pianist and a tenor saxophonist who combines Ben Webster's big, warm sound, Stan Getz' dry coolness, John Coltrane's improvisational aggressiveness, and Johnny Hodges' affinity for the melodic line into a sonic signature indisputably his own? Thats easy. You have the latest jazz CD from Mapleshade Records, Gentle Giant of the Tenor Sax by Bob Kindred with Larry Willis.
Both Mapleshade and pianist Larry Willis are familiar to audiophiles, but just who is tenor saxophonist Bob Kindred and why should you be interested in listening to him? Fair question.
Kindred is a musician's musician who has played with ensembles ranging from organ trios to big bands. Lately, he's been collaborating with jazz icons such as Hank Jones, Clark Terry, Roy Eldridge, Toots Thielemans, and Mel Lewis. With a resume like that, he has everything a jazz giant needs, with the possible exception of individual recognition. This CD should go a long way toward solving that little problem.
"Ethiopia" features Kindred in his best Ben Webster/John Coltrane groove. Thelonius Monks "We See" shows how seamlessly Kindred would have fit into any of Monks groups -- his command of Monk's intricate use of space and angular melodic lines is as assured as that of anyone Ive heard, and that includes Sonny Rollins and Coltrane.
But the cut that probably best illustrates Kindreds mastery over the tenor is his flight on the Billy Strayhorn classic "Blood Count." Kindred imbues the very first few notes with passion and heartache -- and that's when I knew I was in for one of the best readings of this tune Id ever heard. He has his own style and a unique feel for the tunes hes working through.
The sound given Kindreds sax here is first-rate. I could hear his breath blowing through, by and around the reed of his mouthpiece. And the sounds of his fingers pressing on the saxophone's keys were startlingly real. There was a real person, blowing a full-sized tenor sax, playing in my living room.
Its too bad Willis piano didnt get quite the same treatment. While its fully sized and well placed in the recording space, it doesnt have quite the percussive impact Ive heard on other, better piano recordings. Still, this is a somewhat minor quibble and shouldnt take away from anyone's enjoyment of this disc (it certainly didnt affect mine).
So, just who is Bob Kindred? Hes a tenor saxophonist who deserves wider recognition -- a situation I would expect this CD to remedy. I look forward to hearing more Kindred from Mapleshade, hopefully in a quartet or quintet setting. (Hey Pierre, how about a date with Willis, Walter Booker, Jimmy Cobb and Hamiet Bluiett? Please?)
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