Min Rager: Bright Road (2006)
Blessed with the gift of melody, Min Rager has created an album of original compositions full of smiles, hope, laughter, and just plain great listening. The Korean native is now completing her master's degree at McGill University in Canada; Bright Road is her debut on record. The sound created by the quintet is huge, which can only be explained by the sharp arranging of the trumpet and alto sax, and how Rager herself comps and solos on piano behind them.
"Devil Heart" sets the tone right from the start as the band plays syncopated chords in unison, leading to a driving vamp played by the bass and piano left hand. Unison trumpet and sax play the theme, which, when combined with Rager's piano, produces a sound that just envelopes the listener with a slightly Latin beat in the bass that meshes with the steady hi-hat on beats two and four.
This is jazz from the mainstream that is anything but flabby or shallow. What you hear is what you get, but the music is so uplifting, so right there it inspires and refreshes. There is no listener fatigue, despite the fact that the music is so "up." Look not here for quirkiness or "out" playing, but rather for music making that soothes the soul while simultaneously engaging the mind in many different ways.
Kevin Dean (trumpet) and Donny Kennedy (alto sax) both play extremely well, and are give rock solid support by Kieran Overs (bass) and Andre White (drums). The tunes and their arrangements, however, make this much easier since they are so extroverted and the balance and the connections between the arranged and the improvised are so smooth. Behind it all is Rager, full of energy and employing accompaniment that continually fills the middle space, producing a wall of sound. Stylistically opposite is "Trailing," which is arranged as a duet for trumpet and piano and features another gorgeous melody that just flows with inevitability as Dean, totally exposed, plays what is arguably his best lines.
Canada is producing some very fine pianist/composers, including Brad Turner (Question The Answer) and David Braid (Vivid). Add Min Rager to that list; she's also someone to watch and wait for in the future. Indeed, Bright Road shares some of the vibe of Vivid, and it's highly recommended to anyone who loves music that uplifts the spirit.
Track Listing: Devil Heart; Sourire Dans La Pluie; Bright Road; Trailing; Violet; Recollection; The Great Bear; Romanticism.
Personnel: Min Rager: piano; Kevin Dean: trumpet; Donny Kennedy: alto saxophone; Kieran Overs: acoustic bass; Andre White: drums.