Guitarist Kenny Carr attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. In his final year he got the call to audition for Ray Charles. Carr toured worldwide with Charles for ten years and played lead guitar for Charles’ recordings Just Between Us (Sony, 1990) and Live at Montreux (Eagle Rock, 1997).
Carr has enjoyed a fruitful career building his own discography of titles as a leader including: Friday at Five (TAS, 2005), Turn the Page (TAS, 2006), Changing Tide (TAS, 2007), Idle Talk (Zoozazz, 2014), Exit Moon (Zoozazz, 2015) and now Departure. On his latest offering Carr is joined by two childhood friends Donny McCaslin on saxophone and Kenny Wollesen on drums and percussion. Also joining the lineup is bassist Hans Glawischnig who Carr has had the pleasure of working with on previous projects. “Intervals” captures Carr and McCaslin playing the main theme together, while the rhythm section invokes hits to strengthen and support the melody. Carr and McCaslin sound as one and it is obvious that the two have played together for a long time. The bridge is a groove laden waltz feel. That same feel is used for the solo sections, starting with McCaslin. His soloing style is modern with a clear sense of melodic direction. The band is supportive and pushes McCaslin in all the right places. Carr’s solo is just as exciting, his tone is full-bodied and acoustic in nature. The melodies have a bebop sound with Carr’s use of chromatic embellishments, but he also uses modern sounds like pentatonic and intervallic shapes. Carr also has a sense of the blues and soul in his playing, which always adds depth to a player’s rhythm and timing.
“Evolutions” finds Carr using a guitar synth to get his melody tone. His tone is very close to Pat Metheny’s synth tone. The melody is flowing and Wollesen’s drum work behind Carr is energetic and building. The harmonic progression is interesting, as the melody is taken through the changes. Carr builds his solos methodically and uses the sustain of the synth to achieve sounds that would decay without the sustain of the synth. The upper register cuts through the mix and the lower riffs growl with sonority as Carr shapes his solo into waves of ascending arches that form melodic phrases. “Evolutions” is an interesting look into Carr’s improvisational vocabulary, which is vast, steeped in melodism and chalk-full of strong musical statements through the shape and texture of the lines.
On Carr’s sixth leader release, he once again solidifies himself as a seasoned veteran who exhibits prowess and technique with a deep sense of groove and agile technique. He has the type of rhythm string players strive for in jazz. His years with Charles were a breeding ground for his deeply felt sense of rhythm. This is what sets jazz guitarist apart. The guitar has an inherit country rhythm to it; and guitarists have to work very hard to get that unique sense of modern swing. Carr is a modernist with a touch of rock smattered in for good measure. On Departure Carr emerges as a fully-fledged and highly capable guitarist, and with the addition of a stellar cast of players his sixth album is a strong statement.
Track Listing: Intervals; Time Change; Tell Me I Can’t ; Warmth; D&P; Evolutions; Departure; Waiting; Bear Call; Parallels.