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Jan Kus Quartet: Faith

Chris M. Slawecki By

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As a young Slovenian saxophone student, Jan Kus proved so promising that he earned a scholarship from the Slovenian Ministry of Culture to study at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, studies which included tours of Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, and The Netherlands, with other young European jazz players. In 2012, Kus crossed the Atlantic to pursue his Masters, studying under saxophonist Antonio Hart at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, where he received the Jimmy Heath Award for promising wind players.

His first full-length release as a leader, Faith delivers an excellent lesson in the globally transcendent nature of modern jazz, produced by Kus and instructed by the Jan Kus Quartet: Kus on tenor and soprano saxophones, Sean Fitzpatrick on piano and Fender Rhodes, double bassist Dan Martinez and drummer Joel Mateo. Guest "instructors" include Antonio Hart, electric guitarist Rafal Sarnecki and vocalist Mélanie JB Charles.

Mentor Hart's pinpoint alto helps Kus's tenor fill up "Emptiness." The melody they jointly sing seems to rise from the song's rhythm as naturally as the morning sunrise; later, their simultaneous closing improvisations shoot off rockets and fireworks of jazz sound, sounding like two Wayne Shorters playing at the same time.

The Quartet changes to a bop quintet by teaming Alex Sipiagin's trumpet with Kus's tenor for a brilliantly detailed reimagining of one of Thelonious Monk's most famously spastic bop melodies, "Rhythm A Ning." Fitzpatrick's piano and Mateo's drums insistently tug Martinez's bass into their swirling Latin rhythm, while tenor and trumpet blow hard bop up top.

Charles' graceful voice floats languidly through two tunes. She wordlessly vocalizes with Kus's saxophone in "Strength," given notes but no words to sing; but she carefully studies every note and word in "I'm Just a Little Person," dreamy music matched with longing lyrics, while Kus's tenor breathily complements her singing. The leader swings fully into the instrumental break, playing Lester Young to Charles' Billie Holiday—pianist Fitzpatrick does a good job resurrecting the sound of Teddy Wilson, too. (Faith concludes by reprising this tune as a drum, bass, and saxophone trio.)

The leader's saxophone most brightly shines in "Neófito," joined once more by Sipiagin's trumpet, and the title track "Faith." Spirited from its start, "Neófito" suggests Herbie Hancock's V.S.O.P. band ripping through modern jazz with a Latin feel. Piano and tenor sax worriedly chew on the blues to step hesitatingly into "Faith" before it opens into more adventurous musical space.

Track Listing: Disconnect; Emptiness; One for the Band; Aqui; One for the Band--Jan's Story; I'm Just a Little Person; One for the Band--Sean's Story; Rhythm A Ning; Strength; One for the Band--Dan's Story; Neófito; Faith; I'm Just a Little Person (trio version).

Personnel: Jan Kus: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Sean Fitzpatrick: piano, Fender Rhodes; Dan Martinez: double bass; Joel Mateo: drums; Mélanie JB Charles: vocals; Antonio Hart: alto saxophone; Alex Sipiagin: trumpet; Carlos Maldonado: percussion; Rafal Sarnecki: electric gutar; Ziga Murko: electronics.

Title: Faith | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

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