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Kenny Davis: Kenny Davis (2010)

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Kenny Davis: Kenny Davis He's had an illustrious career since moving to New York in the mid-1980s and hitching a gig with drummer Ralph Peterson
Ralph Peterson
Ralph Peterson
b.1962
drums
Jr. and contemporary mainstreamers Out of the Blue (OTB), but he's waited until now to release an album under his own name. An impressive résumé includes work with M-Base collective saxophonist Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman
b.1956
saxophone
's Five Elements; performing—and, on one song, arranging—credits on singer Cassandra Wilson
Cassandra Wilson
Cassandra Wilson
b.1955
vocalist
's Grammy Award-winning Blue Light 'Til Dawn (Blue Note, 1993); and subsequent work with artists ranging from Art Farmer
Art Farmer
Art Farmer
1928 - 1999
flugelhorn
and Robin Eubanks
Robin Eubanks
Robin Eubanks
b.1955
trombone
to Don Byron
Don Byron
Don Byron
b.1958
clarinet
and Onaje Allan Gumbs
Onaje Allan Gumbs
Onaje Allan Gumbs
b.1949
piano
. All this and more contributes to the unerring success of Kenny Davis.



At a time when many artists are distancing themselves from the American tradition, Kenny Davis remains reverential yet unmistakably modern. Davis—focusing on double-bass with a robust tone and deep, flexible sense of time rooted in bass icons like Paul Chambers

Paul Chambers
Paul Chambers
1935 - 1969
bass, acoustic
and Ron Carter
Ron Carter
Ron Carter
b.1937
bass
—contributes all but two of the album's 14 tracks, but his approach to the cover material is equally personal. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
b.1950
keyboard
's "Too High" opens with a thematically virtuosic yet effervescently swinging bass solo that, bolstered by drummer Billy Kilson
Billy Kilson
Billy Kilson
b.1962
drums
's ever-empathic interaction, pushes the bar even higher than that set by the duo's fiery opening salvo, "1st Arrival." But Davis goes even further here, with an arrangement that manages to turn Wonder's already knotty tune into even greater intricacy, all the while swinging at a fast clip that challenges pianist Geri Allen
Geri Allen
Geri Allen
b.1957
piano
and saxophonist Javon Jackson
Javon Jackson
Javon Jackson
b.1965
saxophone
to keep up...which, of course, they do. Walter Gross' enduring "Tenderly" is taken at a more relaxed pace, but grooves no less viscerally, with a particularly potent solo from Davis' ex-OTB band mate, saxophonist Ralph Bowen
Ralph Bowen
Ralph Bowen

sax, tenor
.



Davis' own writing is equally compelling, and demonstrates a broad scope. "Fearless" begins with an 11/8 vamp and serpentine head yet, with Allen playing counterpoint to Bowen and guitarist David Gilmore

David Gilmore
David Gilmore

guitar
's winding theme, it's another cooker when it gets to the solos, with the saxophonist and guitarist finding their way through Davis' sophisticated changes, anchored by the muscular rhythm team of Davis and drummer Ralph Peterson.



Onaje Allan Gumbs—also the album's producer—replaces Allen on two tracks: the balladic "Wrapped in Love," and brief closer, "Gone Too Soon"—an even more poignant duet that shines a spotlight on Davis' lyrically fragile arco. Recorded as a single piece, the ostinato-driven "Journey" is broken into three interludes that— peppered throughout the disc and only gradually revealing their full thematic strength—act as a unifying drawstring, creating an arc across the CD that, by its third iteration, finds bass clarinetist Don Byron and trumpeter Eddie Allen

Eddie Allen
Eddie Allen

trumpet
's orbiting economically around each other.



It's hard to call Kenny Davis a debut when the bassist has appeared on so many significant recordings. Still, focusing as it does on his inimitable excellence as a performer and equally compelling compositional skills, Kenny Davis is the first release to make so crystal clear how this established but, in some ways, still emerging, deserves to be watched.


Track Listing: 1st Arrival; Fearless; Deliverance; Too High; Journey (Interlude #1); Elviry; Tenderly; Wrapped in Love; Journey (Interlude #2); Altitude; Before Sunrise; What Lies Beyond; Journey (Interlude #3); Gone Too Soon.

Personnel: Kenny Davis: bass; Billy Kilson: drums (1, 4-10, 12, 13); Ralph Bowen: tenor saxophone (2, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13); David Gilmore: guitar (2); Geri Allen: piano (2-7, 9, 12, 13); Ralph Peterson, Jr.: drums (2, 3); Javon Jackson: tenor saxophone (3, 4); Onaje Allan Gumbs: piano (8, 14); Don Byron: clarinet and bass clarinet (9, 12, 13); Eddie Alan: trumpet (3, 12).

Record Label: Self Produced

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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