330

Kenny Werner: Democracy: Live at the Blue Note

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Kenny Werner: Democracy: Live at the Blue Note It's hard to believe that a jazz musician would be fired for trying to create something new every night, but it's happened to pianist Kenny Werner. "I'm a lousy sideman, he says in the liner notes to Democracy: Live at the Blue Note. Fortunately, this is his gig, and its loose exploratory nature proves it's not necessary to abandon symmetrical time or change-based structure to keep things sounding fresh, night after night.

This may be Werner's gig, but the title says it all. He surrounds himself with a group of like-minded players, including bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade, who feel like two halves of the same organism. Matt Shulman is a sharply focused trumpeter who bears some comparison to Kenny Wheeler—who, coincidentally, makes a guest appearance on the album's closing two tracks. Saxophonist David Sanchez has, in recent years, transcended his Latin roots, evolving into a significant player in any context.

Earmarks of Werner's desire to "create new stuff on the bandstand every night begin with his gentle solo intro to "Democracy Now. Gradually building towards a two-chord vamp that signals the band in, its theme is a brief but complex statement. Sanchez and Shulman are the primary voices, but Colley and Werner provide occasional counterpoint and Blade creates a turbulent undertow that pulls everyone forward into the solo section.

Blade's intuitive strength on the lithely swinging, Wayne Shorter-inspired "Fish Gotta Fly elevates Werner's already imaginative solo to even higher ground. And when the band drops out in the middle of the balladic "Untitled Lament, Werner proves himself on the same plane as Keith Jarrett when it comes to spontaneous invention.

Jazz artists have been inspired by singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell's innovative guitar voicings for years, but Werner's buoyant "One for Joni captures her distinctive language and phrasing better than most. Blade and Colley give it an ever-so-slight gospel-cum-funk underpinning, and Werner delivers his most resonant solo of the set.

Wheeler joins the group for the set's finale. "Intro to Hedwig's Theme is a freely lyrical duet with Colley that leads into the minor-key main body of the tune. Sounding at first like something out of the soundtrack to The Elephant Man, it morphs into a Coltrane-like modal workout where Sanchez starts simply, but builds into referential cascading flurries and high pitched screams. Wheeler's brief solo is a fiery counterpoint to the gentle lyricism of his own recent It Takes Two! (Cam Jazz, 2006), while Werner's solo is, once again, uncannily supported by Colley and Blade.

The multifaceted Democracy might make you wish you'd been there, but it's even better news that it's been documented, allowing you to discover something new with each and every listen.


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).

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Half Note Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Northern Adventures CD/LP/Track Review Northern Adventures
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Collider CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Eos CD/LP/Track Review Eos
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 28, 2017
Read More Than This CD/LP/Track Review More Than This
by Henning Bolte
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "The Outlier" CD/LP/Track Review The Outlier
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 22, 2016
Read "Paris" CD/LP/Track Review Paris
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 16, 2016
Read "Spring Feelings" CD/LP/Track Review Spring Feelings
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 20, 2016
Read "Nexus" CD/LP/Track Review Nexus
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: June 1, 2016
Read "El Viaje" CD/LP/Track Review El Viaje
by James Nadal
Published: September 14, 2016
Read "Once & Future" CD/LP/Track Review Once & Future
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 10, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!