Timo Shanko: Freedom Right Now (2004)
Bassist and saxophonist Timo Shanko presents an exhilarating set of songs on Freedom Right Now. Taking a musical cue from the influential groups of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, the obscure Shanko is joined by an equally unknown set of musicians that include Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, Keala Kaumeheiwa and Gary Wicks on bass, and Luther Gray on drums. A little research tells us that Shanko plays bass on Joe Morris' current trio and with Boston's Fully Celebrated Orchestra.
As good a bassist as he may be, Shanko is a demon on reeds. Playing both tenor and baritone saxophones on this album, he scorches the mind with soulful radiance. The opening set of songs, "The Emperor Has No Clothes," "Freedom Right Now," and "Shim," find an aggressive and urgent Shanko commanding the scene with tone and attack. On "Shim," in particular, Shanko's baritone lines seem to come out of an old boogie woogie/R&B album, showing us jazz that is freer in spirit than in structure.
Ballads like "Forever Recurring Image" and "Goes Around Comes Around" reinforce the idea of jazz as honest, unpretentious art where the artist can converse to the limits of his imagination. Shanko's supporting cast is an equally inspired set of Boston musicians. On three of the eight tunes, cornetist Bynum joins the group and displays a well-worn, near-ragged tone that is an obvious homage to Don Cherry. Bassist Kaumeheiwa and drummer Gray set and maintain vigorous propulsions of beats and rhythms that keep Shanko and Bynum on their toes.
An album well worth the trouble to find, Freedom Right Now will hopefully bring Shanko and his men some deserved recognition.
~ Germein Linares
Track Listing: The Emperor Has No Clothes/ Freedom Right Now/ Shim/ Forever Recurring Image A.L.P./ The Crux/ Humunculus/ Goes Around Comes Around/ Hot City
Personnel: Timo Shanko- tenor, baritone sax; Taylor Ho Bynum- cornet; Keala Kaumeheiwa, Gary Wicks- bass; Luther Gray- drums
Record Label: Skycap Records