Sean Nowell: The Kung-Fu Masters (2013)
New York City-based saxophonist Sean Nowell has found a home with the increasingly prominent West Coast modern jazz record label, Posi-Tone Records. His fourth release highlights the turbo-powered acoustic-electric band, The Kung-Fu Masters. Word has it that the ensemble has been creating a buzz in The Big Apple, and in recent times has acted like a jazz collective, featuring guest spots by formidable players such as guitarist Mike Stern and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. Now that Nowell has firmed-up the core band, let us hope that this high quality album signifies the beginning of a lengthy recording cycle. Simply put, this unit knocks the living daylights out of conventional jazz-funk stylizations.
"Mantis Style" is an example of the ensemble's vast weaponry. Marked by difficult super-funk time signatures and regimented unison lines, either keyboardist Art Hirahara or Adam Klipple calm the waters by rewinding the intensity with supple electric piano phrasings then up the ante, summoning the frontline to reenergize the proceedings. Think of James Brown's JB Horns kicking matters into submission via a rigorously technical arrangement, shadowed by punchy accents and snappy choruses. With some push and pull, the musicians restate the primary theme towards the finale as trombonist Michael Dease navigates the perimeter while offering subtle contrasts. Here and throughout, Nowell and associates dish out a sweltering modus operandi with an irrefutable vengeance.
Personnel: Sean Nowell: tenor saxophone; Brad Mason: trumpet; Michael Dease: trombone; Art Hirahara: keyboards; Adam Klipple: organ, keyboards; Evan Marien: bass; Marko Djordjevic: drums.
Record Label: Posi-Tone Records
Style: Beyond Jazz