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Keith Yaun Quintet: Countersink

Glenn Astarita By

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This is a good debut effort from Boston, MA based guitarist Keith Yaun. Backed by a band that includes Mat Maneri; violin, John Lockwood; bass: Nathan Cook; tenor sax and Johnny McLellan drums, Yaun displays seasoned bandleading skills not to mention impressive chops.

For several years, Boston has been a Mecca for avant-garde and free improvised music. Witness saxophonist Joe Maneri’s recent recordings for ECM, Leo and Hatology records. The re-emergence of saxophonist Mark Whitecage and Mat Maneri’s (Joe Maneri’s son) recording endeavors with pianist Matthew Shipp and guitarist Joe Morris. Other than New York and Chicago, Boston has resurfaced as a hot bed for improvised-free music while cultivating renewed interest and fertility in a scene that traditionally, has seen more productivity within various European factions. “Countersink” is slightly more structured than one would immediately assume; however, these compositions serve as vehicles for a hefty dose of improvisation and inventive dialogue among the band members. Yaun is clearly the traffic cop here and does a splendid job of administering the pace and direction of the Quintet. Yaun’s original composition “Heavy Hand of Love” emits the feel of a rocky relationship between lovers. Yaun’ s clever use of volume control is a nice compliment to Maneri’s colorful yet intriguing violin improvisations. Tenor saxophonist Nathan Cook is a perfect foil for Maneri and Yaun. His deep tone and articulate improvisational ability serves as a perfect match for this band. On “Heavy Hand of Love”, the rhythm section of Lockwood and McLellan engage in some call and response segments while sustaining the often sinewy rhythmic structure. “Runup#1” is an exhaustive burner. Yaun, Maneri and Cook workout some difficult unison runs supplemented by Yaun’s well-stated guitar solo. “Collide” is drummer Johnny McLellan’s original composition which is an open ended conversation piece that contains plenty of dialogue and communication. Here, the guys stretch out a bit and eventually re-convene to restate the themes. A sense of space prevails which also adds to the sense of depth. The final cut, McLellan’s “Countersink” is a slow bluesy piece, which features soulful walking bass lines alternating with odd meter rhythmic excursions. On this cut Yaun extends himself with stinging lead guitar work and crafty phrasing.

“Countersink” is a fine effort and should open a few more doors for guitarist Keith Yaun. Thankfully, Leo Feigin of Leo Lab records continues his successful track record of identifying and producing talent that deserves wider recognition. Recommended.


Title: Countersink | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Leo Records


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