by Tom Haugen
Wise Cat, 2021
A saxophonist, pianist, vocalist and esteemed composer, Kenny Shanker brings Bill Mobley, Daisuke Abe, Mike Eckroth, Yoshi Waki and Brian Fishler to these diverse originals and standards that illuminate the bebop, classical and melodic jazz mood.
“Cool Mint” gets things off to a warm start, as crisp drumming and soulful sax guide the spirited original, and “Prestissimo” follows with a dizzying display of brass acrobatics, where Mobley’s strong trumpet prowess adds much to the busy climate.
In the middle, “L’ Impossible” brings radiant beauty to the piano friendly and stylish landscape, while “Orange And Gray” glides with a timeless jazz quality where the keys, drums, trumpet and guitars blend together with much melody and poise. “I’m Old Fashioned”, one of the best tunes present, then benefits much from Waki’s bass work as the setting turns reflective.
Close the end, “In Walked Bud” shuffles quickly with a playful free jazz spirit that you can’t help but admire, and the title track exits the listen with a classical influence as Shanker’s incredible sax skills take focus.
This is Shanker’s 4th album, and it continues his firm attention to detail that still allows for adventurous moments amid the universally enjoyable jazz sensibilities that certainly does the covers proud, and is full of top notch originals, too.