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Kenny Werner: Naked in the Cosmos & Peace

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Kenny Werner & The Brussels Jazz Orchestra
Naked in the Cosmos
Jazz n' Pulz
2003

If a single contemporary recording were recommended as cliff notes for an impatient student eager to get a feel for smooth jazz, atmospheric new age elevator music, the angular contortions of Sam Rivers' big band compositions, polyphony in current jazz, Weather Report, Ellington's late suites, Wayne Shorter's '60s music arranged (very nicely) for big band, ancient Coleman Hawkins ballads, Miles and Coltrane's '50s modal inventions and more, then Kenny Werner's Naked in the Cosmos might be that recording. Werner is a fine pianist and shows his skill as an arranger and bandleader here. However, there's nothing really new in Naked. Some passages sound cribbed straight from '70s Miles and Weather Report.

Naked leaves one wondering what Werner's mind looks like disrobed. Under the lovely facade of the spotless arrangements and virtuosic musicianship, lies an infrastructure of disjointed ideas, none of which seem to have originated with Werner. This dynamic is most on display in the title track, a 12 minute romp through an assortment of styles.

Naked is notable perhaps for the use of the little known Brussels Jazz Orchestra. It's old news that those who listen to jazz with their ears and not their race consciousness are compelled to admit that quite a few Euro players have "got that swing" and it would be interesting if more composers availed themselves of ensembles like this one. Perhaps Werner's record will help usher in a new era of American collaborations with these sorts of international bands.


Kenny Werner
Peace
Half Note
2004

On the heels of Naked comes Peace , a live recording from April 2003. Here again is the Miles Davis/Wayne Shorter influence on vivid display, as the disc opens with a nimble medley of Shorter's "Pinnochio" and "Fall." Peace is further evidence of Werner's dexterity with the music of others. His delivery of classics like "Stella by Starlight," Monk's old showstopper "Evidence" and the title track (by Horace Silver) are not only immaculate, but fresh enough to warrant a listen even from those of us who feel we've heard these tunes enough. Werner's three originals on this outing once again betray a dearth of originality. In fact, I thought my CD player was on the fritz when I heard the opening line of his "All Things Are You" (even the title of which is derivative), which sounds like a slightly free adaptation of "Evidence."

With Peace , Werner is trying to make new jazz while staying too carefully within the lines drawn fifty years ago. Naked in the Cosmos attempts a similar thing, but from two decades later. 2004, for him, must lie far in the future.


Naked in the Cosmos

Tracks: 1. Naked in the Cosmos (12:03); 2. Use Me (13:15); 3. All That (7:30); 4. Portrait of Jenny (7:26); 5. Sasumi (19:44).
Personnel: Olivier Bodson: Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Jan De Backer: Trombone; Bart Defoort: Soprano and Tenor Sax; Marc Godfroid: Trombone; Laurent Hendrick: Bass Trombone; Gino Lattuca: Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Dieter Limbourg: Clarinet, Flute, Alto and Soprano Sax; Jos Matchell: Double Bass; Carlo Mertens: Bass Trombone; Lode Mertens: Trombone; Michel Paré: Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Jacques Pirroton: Electric Guitar; Serge Plume: Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Nico Schepers: Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Frank Vaganee: Flute, Alto and Soprano Sax; Bo Van Der Werf: Bass Clarinet, Baritone Sax; Kurt Van Herck: Clarinet, Flute, Soprano and Tenor Sax; Martijn Vink: Drums; Kenny Werner Synthesizer, Piano.

Peace

Tracks: 1. Pinocchio/Fall (12:52); 2. All Things Are You (6:35); 3. Jabali (8:53); 4. Peace (9:44); 5. Stella By Starlight (6:03); 6. Evidence (8:56); 7. Chach (5:42).
Personnel: Ari Hoenig: Drums; Kenny Werner: Piano.

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