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Kenny Werner: Democracy: Live at The Blue Note

Ernest Barteldes By

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This album, recorded at Blue Note at the beginning of this year, begins in the same manner that Kenny Werner's concert did during last month's residence at the same club: with a solo piano piece that emphasizes the subtleties of the pianist's fingering by exploring the whole keyboard in a classically inspired manner. The band joins in after a few bars, but the focus is mostly on Werner's piano work, showcasing (on stage) the chops of young trumpetist Matt Shulman, who took advantage of the reverb on his mic. (Kenny Wheeler, who performs on the disc, was not present at the gig.) Saxophonist David Sanchez also shines on the tune.

"One for Joni is inspired by the music of Joni Mitchell, whom Werner mentioned listening to while driving back home after a gig. The tune has a folksy, bluesy feel that provides a lot of freedom for the musicians to play around. Certainly one of the best moments in the album, it was also one of the most enjoyable parts of the concert.

The only part of the album (and show) that was not enjoyable was Werner's adaptation of John Williams' "Hedwig's Theme, taken from the soundtrack of the Harry Potter movies. The melody, in its original format, helps bring to life the fantasy of J.K. Rowling's pages, but in a jazz setting it is too tight—and one couldn't help but notice a certain discomfort among the musicians (this comes across on the album as well). It is a difficult theme to work around, and though Werner's quintet nails it well, it is still hard on the ear.

Werner also played two tunes that were not on the Democracy album. "New Amsterdam is between a '70s funk groove and Brubeck-esque feel. The tune, performed mostly as a trio, showcased both bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade's talents. He also played the mellow "Uncovered Heart mostly solo, followed by a sax/trumpet duet, ending with Shulman blowing to create a wind effect. Werner said the song was dedicated to his daughter (who tragically died in a car accident in October) and would be featured on an upcoming disc.

Track Listing: Democracy Now; Fish Gotta Fly; Untitled Lament; One for Joni; Intro to Hedwig's Theme; Hedwig's Theme.

Personnel: Kenny Werner: piano; Brian Blade: drums; Scott Colley: bass; David Sanchez: saxophone; Matt Shulman: trumpet; Kenny Wheeler: trumpet (5,6).

Title: Democracy: Live at the Blue Note | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Half Note Records


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