|BOB KINDRED WITH
Just back from a little Jimmy Scott recording date, Larry Willis raved about this gorgeous sounding tenor player hed found. Wow, was he on the money! Right from the start of their session, I was startled by Kindreds amazing down-home blues power, the legacy of the great Philly organ trios he first toured with. When he switched to ballads, I heard those breathy, 24-karat Ellingtonian moans, a tribute to his big band years. In between there were flashes of Monk and Miles and Trane, unexpected but breathtaking. Chuck Berg of Jazz Times agrees: Its fair to say that Kindred now ranks with the giants of his instrument, with Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, John Coltrane and Zoot Sims. Inspired by this heady brew, Larrys piano reaches heights of emotion Ive only heard from him once or twice before. And the sound is Mapleshade crème de la crèmeprobably the richest piano overtones and the most intimate sax breathiness you may ever hear out of your speakers. (#09032)
IF YOU ENJOYED GENTLE GIANT OF THE TENOR SAX, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT:
Anyone who heard Bob Kindreds heart-felt tenor saxophone solos on two tracks of singer Jimmy Scotts Over the Rainbow (Milestone) and wished for more is in good company. Pianist Larry Willis was on the Scott date and was so impressed with Kindred that he pressed Mapleshades Pierre Sprey to let him record with the saxophonist in a duo. It was a good idea. The two play off of and inspire one another.
Much is made in the liner notes of Kindreds affinity for Stan Getz, Ben Webster, John Coltrane, even King Curtis. No saxophonist of Kindreds age (he is 61) who has ears could avoid being affected by at least the first three on that list. Still, he is so clearly an original that on Willis Ethiopia or Billy Strayhorns Blood Count, which is indelibly associated with Johnny Hodges, a listener would have to strain to believe that Kindred is borrowing anything. He directly evokes his heroes only on The Things We Did Last Summer (Webster) and Django Reinhardts Anouman (Getz). Kindred has an enormous tone. He possesses lightning speed, which he employs judiciously. He goes deep into chords to find beautiful sequences of notes, and he invests each one with passion. In the case of Blue Moon, which he and Willis transform into an off-the-wall Thelonious Monk fantasia, it is the passion of humor.
Willis is better known than Kindred, but not nearly to the degree that his talent warrants. He accompanies and solos beautifully here. This may be the sleeper duo recording of the year.
All About Jazz:
Bob Kindred traveled to the bucolic surroundings of Mapleshade's recording studio in rural Maryland to team with pianist Larry Willis for a session of more than 60 minutes' worth of "gentle" but not outdated jazz performances. In some respects Kindred is a throwback to Ben Webster and the tender side of Stan Getz. His playing recalls that distinctive rasping timbre and excellent rhythmic momentum that characterized Webster, especially in his later years. But Kindred also shows that he is not unfamiliar with the modern jazz idiom as he interpolates dissonant avant garde improvisations throughout, such as on of Django Reinhardt's "Anouman" while still managing to retain that Webster breathy sax sound. But it's the sheer beauty of Kindred's tone and his consummate lyricism that will catch the ear of most listeners. His warm, full-bodied rendition of "The Things We Did Last Summer" is a throwback to the days when melody was important. No matter how many times it was improvised upon, saxophone players like Webster, Getz, Young and Hawkins always returned to the melody, the heart of the song. There's a feeling of deja vu as the opening measures of Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count" slither from the speakers. Kindred's tenor takes on the sensuous, earthy sound of Johnny Hodges' alto, a sound he retains through most of this cut. Kindred's fingers deftly flit over the keys of his tenor on Horace Silver's "Juicy Lucy" slipping in modern jazz ideas in between measures of soul jazz. Very innovative and quite singular.
Regular Mapleshade and top jazz pianist Larry Willis, is the sole playing chaperon for Kindred on this set. He becomes Kindred's alter ego on such tunes as "Blue Moon" where Willis' jagged comping sets off Kindred's in depth exploration of this classic warhorse. His pensive pianism is highlighted by a lengthy solo on "Warm Valley". He also contributed his "Ethiopia" to the play list. This album perfects the merging of the styles of earlier saxophone greats with modern jazz ideas and is highly recommended. Visit Mapleshade on the web at www.mapleshaderecords.com.
The intriguing quotation on the cover putting Bob Kindred in the same league as Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, and Zoot Sims has to raise some eyebrows, but it also might be a little unfair to Kindred in that it sets expectations that are difficult, if not impossible, to meet. In fairness, Kindred is a very strong performer, his rich fat tone, solid technique, and mature phrasing reminding the listener of some other experienced unsung saxophonists such as Bennie Wallace and Larry Schneider. Pianist Larry Willis is Kindreds partner for this recording, and a good choice. Willis is a sensitive performer, one of the best accompanists on the scene today, his delicate touch and total technique similar to that of the great Franco D'Andrea. Together, Kindred and Willis choose mostly well known tunes, often at slow tempos, in which they infuse the pieces with heavily emotional content. While there is a pristine beauty that is present throughout, there are occasions, particularly during the first three tunes, when my mind drifted a bit. Still, this is music that is serious without being overbearing, and when Kindred is at his best he is an impressive highly developed performer. His version of Ellingtons Warm Valley is worthy of the best, and his take of Blue Moon (a risky choice) is notable for its originality. Monks We See is given a characteristically angular and hard-edged interpretation, while Strayhorns Bloodcount drips with emotion This is one that deserves to be heard.
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?)