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Kareem Kandi Band: Hourglass

Paul Rauch By

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The jazz organ trio, with saxophone and drums, is an efficient concept in terms of musical identity; it exposes the members to the core of their collective musical being, laying bare the total expressiveness of the players, and the strengths and weaknesses of the collective. It's like a mini-big band, with B3 sounds swirling and creating foundational remnants from which the rhythmic aspects and melodic input of both the drummer and saxophonist give rise to musical adventurism. The Kareem Kandi Band is like a blueprint of this tradition, and on this recording, uses this vehicle to travel down traditional inroads of original composition and interpretation of classic jazz composition.

Kareem Kandi may be the hardest working musician on the Seattle jazz scene, playing with a myriad of different combinations of players, and possessing a fun-loving sense of adventurism. At the same time, he has not definitively developed any sense of artistic cohesiveness, or established a finite, fully developed project to date. However, in stripping down his musical identity to its core this format, the organ trio, seems to be the appropriate vehicle for discovering what really motivates and inspires Kandi, with this recording including, perhaps, the perfect compliment to this notion in the persons of organist Delvon Lamarr and drummer D’Vonne Lewis.

Kandi's sense of timing, his tonality, his statement of melody, and his intuitive feel for the moment truly sets the tone for this record. In that sense, perhaps, he finds his true mode of expression, something he finds within himself that grooves well within the soulful tradition of the B3 trio. "I love playing in quartets and bass and drum trios, but I've also always been a fan of that organ trio sound. In particular, Sonny Stitt's work with Don Patterson, and Joshua Redman's Elastic Band with Sam Yahel and Brian Blade," says Kandi. On Hourglass, the trio seeks to find its identity in spontaneity, to try to capture in the studio what is a reactive conversational form, an almost interactive experience with a live audience.

The album starts with a full- on groove version of John Coltrane's "Impressions." While the tempo seems to lag just a touch, the interpretation is uplifted by Lamarr's soulful playing and Lewis' intricate work within the groove. It is difficult to imagine this tune played within this rhythmic dynamic, but this interpretation provides great insight into the idea that you can make funky, groove centric music that never falls close to the area of smooth jazz, or jazz music with pop musings. The approach here is perhaps less dense, and less layered than what we have come to expect of an organ trio from the likes of saxophonists such as Stitt, Redman, and, to an extent, James Carter.

The title track is more reflective and pensive, with a wide-open atmospheric space. Lamarr virtually defines the bass playing organist, creating a rhythmic landscape complete for Kandi and Lewis to add color and texture, blending together as one sound and reaching inward to a peaceful, soulful place.

Kandi's "Guess Again" is an up-tempo, funk-infused rant that, at certain points, stretches into a more pliable form. The tune implies much about this band, which seems to find melodic and rhythmic spaces within the harmonic and rhythmic structure; playing freely but cohesively, and standing on one's own just enough to allow your brother to groove freely as well.

As is often the case whenever he takes the stage—or, in this case, enters the studio—drummer Lewis is a delight, his enlightened positivity and stunning technique underpinning his ability to find and explore different sounds within the drum kit. Kandi plays with such ease, even while riding the groove-induced wave this trio generates, no doubt delighting in his choice of company for this session. This band can be a whirl of energy, like a busy avenue on the soulful side of town, and Kandi like a pedestrian walking at a smooth pace: never hurrying; never breaking stride; and digging the sites, sounds and energy around him.

Kandi is a blue collar, hard- working jazz warrior. His work, on stage and in the classrooms of his native Tacoma, WA and the Seattle metro area, is impactful, casting a wide net among veteran and young musicians alike. It will be interesting to witness how he distills his multiplicity of musical experiences into an artist with a genuine and original voice. He seems to be making giant leaps in terms of his personal sound, and harmonic understanding, playing from a deeper, more focused paradigm. Hourglass, released on the Pony Boy label, will enable jazz aficionados across the country to get yet another taste of the eclectic jazz scene in and around Seattle.

There is honor in hard work. There is hope, in art, that our focused energies can create something beautiful, something worth sharing. Hourglass is surely that, and then some.

Track Listing: Impressions; Hourglass; Curvaceous; Stardust; Guess Again; You Make Me Feel So Young

Personnel: Kareem Kandi: saxophone; Delvon Lamarr-organ; D'Vonne Lewis-drums

Title: Hourglass | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Pony Boy Records

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