Jazz & Blues Magazine reviews Kenny Shanker, Beautiful Things

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Kenny Shanker Promo 1


by Ron Weinstock

Kenny Shanker Beautiful Things CD Cover


Beautiful Things

Kenny Shanker is a saxophonist, pianist, vocalist,
and award-winning composer from Pleasanton,
California. He started playing piano when two and has
developed into an impressive talent. Shanker has performed
with the New World Symphony, Richard Bona,
David Benoit, Shelly Berg, Lage Lund, Taylor Eigsti, Bill
Mobley, the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, and many others.
Now residing in New York, he has performed at Carnegie
Hall, Birdland, Dizzy’s Club, Smoke, Smalls, Fat Cat,
Jazz at Kitano, and other locations.

“Beautiful Things” is his fourth album, second for
Wise Cat Records. On this session, he played alto saxophone
and was backed by a rhythm section of Daisuke
Abe – Guitar, Mike Eckroth – Piano, Yoshi Waki – Bass,
and Brian Fishler – Drums. Bill Mobley plays trumpet
on three of the twelve selections. Shanker wrote 5 of
the twelve tunes, with the other seven being standards.

The opening “Cool Mint” has the feel of a sixties Brill
Building hit with a memorable melody before Shanker’s
fruity solo followed by thoughtful solos by Eckroth and
Abe. It is followed by the hard bop “Prestissimo” with a
breakneck tempo that evokes “Giant Steps.” Taken at
an almost frantic tempo, Shaker, trumpeter Mobley, and
pianist Eckroth navigate the changes impressively. On
Rogers & Hart’s “It Never Entered My Mind,” it sounds
like synthesized strings added to a ballad performance
where he exhibits a beguiling tone. Abe takes an alluring
acoustic solo here. It is followed by the bouncy “Mirth,”
with a solo that suggests Sonny Fortune and other
Coltrane-influenced alto saxophonists. Mobley adds
some mid-range heat on his trumpet on this selection.
Eckroth opens the swinging interpretation of Oscar
Peterson’s “L’impossible,” with Shanker exhibiting fluidity
along with his melodic tone over the entire range of
the alto sax. Abe’s Guitar chords help set the walking
tempo for Shanker’s lyrical playing on “Without a Song.”
A charming rendition of “I’m Old Fashioned,” where
Abe takes solos crisply and cleanly. “Like Someone In
Love,” an alluring duet with Waki on bass, is another
choice track.

Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud” opens as a duet
between Shanker and drummer Fischler. Eckroth and
Waki join the performance halfway through. Eckroth
also solos before Fischler does, with Shanker riding the
performance out over Fischler. Shanker’s title composition
closes the recording in a beautiful manner (pun

Kenny Shanker plays thoughtfully, displays
a beautiful tone and fluid technique, and is backed by
a splendid band on an outstanding recording. Set for
release August 20, 2021.

Kari Gaffney

Kari Gaffney

Since 1988 Kari-On Productions has helped artists get an even footing in the industry through jazz promotion in the genres of Jazz, World & Latin Jazz through Jazz Radio and Publicity. Why do we do both, because they compliment each other, and we care about fiscal longevity for the artist.

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