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Kendall Moore: Focus

Edward Blanco By

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Chicago native Kendall Moore is a trombonist and composer currently pursuing a Doctorate degree in Jazz Performance from the University of Miami and has been part of South Florida's vibrant jazz scene for some time. Forging a career that has enabled him to perform with such icons as Dave Brubeck, McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal, Jimmy Heath and others, Moore now presents his debut album as leader with stunning Focus, a project of contemporary, straight ahead jazz offering a sensational selection of six dazzling original tunes and fresh new arrangements of two time-honored standards. A recipient of the 2009 ASCAP Foundation Young Composer Award, his original charts carry the date here as they are intelligent, introspective and quite engaging.

The trombonist leads the music with a core sextet augmented to a small ensemble with the inclusion of alto saxophonist Pat Seymour and trumpeter Marquis Hill on three tracks at times producing a large ensemble sound that's quite appealing. With steady chords from guitarist Tim Jago and light stick work from drummer Michael Piolet introducing the music on the opening Bill Evans / Miles Davis standard "Blue In Green," this arrangement takes off with an exciting propulsive rendition of the classic. Moore takes the limelight on his original title-track opening the music and leading the way with voice of the trombone marking the melody while the band's more than supportive role and Mark Small's torrid tenor solo, making this one a stand out tune of the set.

Blowing a soft and light trombone, Moore treads gentle on the delicate original "Peaceful" where even Small's tenor is withdrawn and somber on this beautiful tranquil piece of music. The original "Fellowship" is another of several warm spots this disc has to offer, a down tempo tune just as introspective as "Peaceful," this one highlights bassist Gary Thomas on tender bass lines as the leader and pianist weigh in on the most ambitious piece of the date.

In contrast, the band is much more expressive on the following "Road Less Traveled," the first of the tunes enjoying the additional sounds of Hill's trumpet improvisations and Seymour's alto voice with "Finding Purpose" and the resilient "Resillience," being the other augmented pieces. The project closes out on a splendid version of Jimmy Van Heusen's classic "It Could Happen to You," featuring the trombonist in his most pronounced performance of the session accompanied well by solos from Piolet and Thomas.

Trombonist Kendall Moore leaves little doubt here that he should be considered one of the young lions of jazz today and one sampling of his impressive Focus will be convincing enough. The focus of this gem of a recording, is not so much the first-rate musicianship of the band and its leader, as it is the quality of the compositions and the music produced, well done!

Track Listing: Blue In Green; Focus; Peaceful; Road Less Traveled; Fellowship; Finding Purpose; Resillience; It Could Happen To You.

Personnel: Kendall Moore: trombone; Mark Small: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Tim Jago: guitar; Angelo Versace: piano; Gary Thomas: bass; Michael Piolet: drums; Marquis Hill: trumpet (4, 6-7); Pat Seymour: alto saxophone (4, 6-7).

Title: Focus | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced

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