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Kenny Lavender: Conscious Journey Part 1 & 2

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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"Big D, Texas!" If that's the "Final Jeopardy" answer based on this recording, the obvious and very correct question would be: "Where does the featured artist on Conscious Journey Part 1 & 2 come from?" Yep, it's where everything is expansive, free-wheeling and hot—and ditto this recording.

Spanning two CDs and offering a dozen superbly-performed selections with nine originals, this is a Longhorn Steer of quality music—most of it exciting, swinging and all of it definitely entertaining. Here, Lavender—now a mainstay in the New York Broadway and freelance scenes—shows he is a high-energy, multi-talented artist on the rise.

As a trumpeter, Lavender has a bright, exciting approach to the horn. He has sound "game," chops galore and his technical wizardry from low to high and fast to slow shines throughout the disc ("Beauty in a Kiss," "Happiness"). His solos are inventive and offer insights as to where his creative juices emanate from.

As a composer/arranger, Lavender is no wall flower, either. He writes like he plays. At times, however, some of the arrangements seem a hair overly long and a bit over-arranged. However, that's a very small drawback which is overshadowed by his and the ensemble's fine playing.

The band, spearheaded by high-flying trumpets, is exceptionally tight and swinging ("Velocity"). Their ensemble playing is outstanding ("9th Ave. Swag") as Lavender's charts—more classic big band ("Caravan," "I Could Write a Book") than revolutionary—do challenge this grouping of the Apple's finest—and they rise to devour. The soloists across the date shine and the rhythm section supports well.

Lavender also takes the microphone vocally ("As I Close My Eyes," "Down in NOLA," "Flow Through Me"). His big, baritone voice is a darker timbre and seems at times walking-the-tightrope reserved for a jazzer. It's an odd compare to his let-it-fly, swinging trumpeting. Positive compares to Harry Connick, Jr. will be obvious.

Overall, Conscious Journey Part 1 & 2 is a muscular CD and a fine introduction to a very talented musician with an upside of the same magnitude as the Lone Star State. Perhaps more.

Track Listing: Disc 1: Velocity; As I Close My Eyes; Beauty in a Kiss; Down in NOLA; 9th Ave. Swag; Flow Through Me. Disc2: Caravan; I Could Write a Book; Happiness; Clark’s Bark; Una Mas.

Personnel: Kenny Lavender: trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals; John Chodoba, Bob Milikan, Brian Pareschi, Scott Wendholt: trumpets; Nathan Mayland, Alan Ferber, Michael Bocarino, Joe Barati: trombones; Nathan Childers, Alejandro Aviles, Jason Rigby, Kurt Bacher, Frank Basile: reeds; Rick Germanson: piano; Phil Palombi: acoustic/electric bass; Andy Watson: drums.

Title: Conscious Journey Part 1 & 2 | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced

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