Album Review: Beautiful Things from Kenny Shanker
Album: Beautiful Things
Artist: Kenny Shanker
Label: Wise Cat Records
Beautiful Things, Kenny Shanker’s second release on Wise Cat Records, is an amalgam of jazz standards and original tunes penned by Shanker, each sharing the common denominator of being inspired by beauty and imprinting that quality in his music. A composer and alto-saxophonist by trade, Shanker fuses elements of bebop, straight-ahead jazz, and swing into the music.
The laid-back rhythm of “Cool Mint” acts as a perch for Shanker’s spirited flights on the saxophone, complimented by the twinkling notes of Mike Eckroth’s keys and the gentle flares of Daisuke Abe’s guitar. Shanker indulges in bouts of freestyle flails along “Prestissimo,” alternating with Bill Mobley’s trumpet toots. The pair display an impressive repartee that wraps listeners around their whirling flourishes. It’s like being swept up by a cushion of clouds, the way an amusement park ride lifts children off the ground.
The slow ride of “It Never Entered My Mind” is catapult by the somber wails of Shanker’s saxophone. A reflective mood is projected, structured by the sprawl of ghostly silhouettes from his sax, alternating with Eckroth’s sleek emanations on the keys. The tender flow of the track once again casts a spell over listeners, sweeping them on a cushion of clouds. The warm vibrations of “Mirth” continue along the path to being inspired by beauty, adjusting Shanker’s sax to a heated velocity that fuses a peppy sprint into the track.
The bebop tint in Shanker’s sax hones “Orange and Gray” to a modern jazz glint, contrasting the angular trajectory of Eckroth’s keys which softens along the track to a cruising gait. With a “Pennies from Heaven” style smoothness, Shanker delivers “I’m Old Fashioned” in a similar fashion, projecting a dreamy versing that engulfs listeners in waves of bliss.
His remake of “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” spotlights Shanker’s jaunting sax and instinct for telling a penetrative tale through his phrasing. The bopping rhythm framing “In Walked Bud” shows traits of classic jazz with a modern voicing, transitioning into the title track, a gorgeous serenade that encircles listeners in its dewy resonance.
Shanker moves through a number of vignettes from smooth serenades to jaunty swing, and from classic bebop to penetrative phrasing. Alternating between ambiences that elicit contemplation and merriment, Shanker and his band mates show they are moved by beauty, and they indeed deliver beautiful music to audiences.
Kenny Shanker – alto saxophone
Bill Mobley – trumpet
Daisuke Abe – guitar
Mike Eckroth – piano
Yoshi Waki – bass
Brian Fishler – drums