On “Crystal River” the gifted Pianist Kenny Drew Jr. performs lavishly and shows maturity as a composer and stylist. Drew and his Sextet bridge the gap between West Coast cool and East Coast bravado while effectively performing in the vein of classic Jazz Messengers or early 1960’s Lee Morgan yet the feel is modern and fresh. On Drew Jr.’s “Confrontation” the Sextet display a big sound that is crisp, clean and spirited. This piece grabs you from the onset with a catchy and memorable melody featuring Drew Jr.’s fabulous technique complete with swirling chord structures, compelling use of tremolo and impossibly fast right hand leads. The band is in top form with effective and energetic soloing from seasoned and vastly under recognized Trumpeter Michael Philip Mossmann along with the phenomenal Vibraphonist Steve Nelson. Drew Jr.’s famous father composed the following track “Undercurrents” which features Drew Jr’s lightning fast hands and we’re talking Oscar Peterson speed here! Another famous son; Ravi Coltrane stretches out on Tenor Sax while Nelson and Mossmann follow suit with uplifting and technically proficient soloing. Drummer Gary Reedus is in Buddy Rich mode with unwavering and relentless swing. The intensity is that of a Big Band. Charles Alkan’s “The First Love Letter” is performed as a Trio consisting of Drew Jr., Bassist Lynn Seaton and Drummer Tony Reedus. Here, Drew Jr. walks us through a warm and affectionate ballad featuring a crafty and well-conceived Arco-Bass solo from the veteran Seaton. Drew Jr.’s “Manhattan Sunset” is an affable and musically picturesque bump and grind affair while Drew Jr.’s “Crystal River” features Ravi Coltrane on Soprano Sax trading pleasant choruses with Trumpeter Michael Philip Mossmann. Here, Drew Jr.’s left hand comps with the rhythm section adding depth and underscoring the in-the-pocket feel of the band. The album’s closer Drew Jr.’s “Straight Jacket” is a hard driving Bop number which seems to reference Monk on occasion.
Crystal River is an audiophile’s delight thanks to the wonderful engineering and fine production from the folks at TCB Records. Kenny Drew Jr. and his Sextet have put forth an engaging and highly entertaining recording which testifies that Drew Jr. is a remarkable Pianist who deserves wider recognition. “Crystal River” is fun, straight forward and well worth checking out. Recommended.
Kenny Drew Jr.; Piano: Michael Philip Mossmann; Trumpet, Flugelhorn: Ravi Coltrane; Tenor and Soprano Sax: Steve Nelson; Vibes: Lynn Seaton; Bass: Tony Reedus; Drums. Web: www.tcb.ch