If they could have seen far enough ahead, Mikole E. Kaar’s parents — who seem to have had a flair for names — might have called him Mikole V — the v, of course, for “versatile.” On A Fifth of Midnight,
his debut album as leader, Kaar plays tenor sax on five tracks, clarinet and bassoon on two apiece, soprano sax and flute. He’s backed throughout by an efficient (but slightly overrecorded) rhythm section consisting of guitarist Pat Danna (who adds a pleasant vocal on “Hit That Jive Jack”), bassist John Hurst and drummers Gary Nieves or Jeff Kingdom. On tenor, Kaar sounds somewhat like a cross between Harry Allen and Lockjaw Davis, on flute like Herbie Mann, on soprano and clarinet like a tenor saxophonist playing soprano or clarinet. On bassoon, of course, there aren’t many others with whom to compare him (I can remember only one, Errol Buddle of the Australian Jazz Quintet). Perhaps because of this, the bassoon numbers (“I’ll Remember April,” Sonny Rollins’ “Doxy”) embody some of the album’s most engaging moments. While Kaar gives a decent account of himself on every instrument, versatility is undeniably his strong suit — as opposed to, say, notable resourcefulness. The tenor, strangely enough, may be his weakest axe (for example, on the up-tempo “I Found a New Baby” Kaar’s technique seems no better than acceptable, although he could be smearing notes on purpose, in which case we beg his pardon). Kaar opens on tenor (“Shine”) and expresses himself well on Monk’s “’Round Midnight” with solid support from the rhythm section. He traverses the lower regions of the clarinet on “Begin the Beguine” and “Mood Indigo,” the flute on “Lover Man,” and unlimbers the soprano on the album’s only original, his own “Judy Anne.” Although Kaar’s phrasings are far from groundbreaking, there’s no doubting his proficiency or enthusiasm. An earnest introductory endeavor that may lead to bigger and better things in the future.
Contact:Carrie Landsgaard, All American Entertainment, 1431 Burroughs St., Oceanside, CA 92054. Phone 18008059745; email Allamer@cs.com
Personnel: Mikole E. Kaar, tenor, soprano sax, flute, clarinet, bassoon; Pat Danna, guitar, vocal (track 4); John Hurst, bass; Gary Nieves (1, 3, 5, 7