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Tom Kennedy: Just Play!

Dan Bilawsky By

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Bassist Tom Kennedy is often relegated to the back of the stage, both in literal and figurative terms. He's an in-demand sideman, well-known for his work with guitarist Mike Stern, his decades-long musical relationship with drummer Dave Weckl, and his studio work with everybody from guitarist Lee Ritenour to clarinetist Ken Peplowski, but he doesn't get noticed often enough in those situations; he really draws attention, however, when he takes control, as on this standards-based set.

Just Play!, Kennedy's fourth date as a leader, finds the bassist shifting effortlessly between the role of supportive force and that of standout soloist. Every number shines a light on both aspects of his work, as he steps out front for fancy finger workouts and provides propulsion from the great below; the latter skill has been his bread and butter while serving as a sideman, but the former marks him as one of the most formidable bass talents operating today.

Kennedy's in good company on this spirited outing, working with an all-star cast made up of his friends, band mates and occasional employers. Ritenour, Stern, Weckl, some heavy horn talents—like saxophonist George Garzone and trumpeter Tim Hagans—and pianist Renee Rosnes mix and mingle in different scenarios during this journey through the well-known.

The core trio of Kennedy, Rosnes and Weckl serves as the backbone of the album. They exhibit a springy, swinging sense of style when left alone, as on a bright trio take of "In Your Own Sweet Way," but they also lay the foundation for larger gatherings, like the horn-heavy "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes." The most memorable solos also tend to come from these three, though Garzone gives them a run for their money; his sparring session with Weckl ("What Is This Thing Called Love") and classy stroll through Ellingtonian territory ("In A Sentimental Mood") are standouts.

Charlie Parker once said, "Master your instrument, master the music, and then forget all that bullshit and just play." Kennedy took that bit of advice to heart in putting this program together and naming it. As a guiding philosophy, it serves him very well here.

Track Listing: Airegin; Moanin'; The Night Has A Thousand Eyes; Ceora; One Liners; In A Sentimental Mood; Bolivia; In Your Own Sweet Way; What Is This Thing Called Love.

Personnel: Tom Kennedy: acoustic bass; Dave Weckl: drums; Renee Rosnes: piano; George Garzone: tenor saxophone; Mike Stern: guitar; Tim Hagans: trumpet; Lee Ritenour: guitar; John Allred: trombone; Steve Wirts: tenor saxophone.

Title: Just Play! | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Capri Records


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