Jazz connoisseurs who lean toward big bands that swing as earnestly and often as the renowned architects of the epic big-band era should find plenty to cheer about on Kinetic, the debut recording by New York-based pianist, composer and arranger Steven Feifke's audacious and fiery ensemble. This is a band that fires on all cylindersbut it couldn't even leave the garage unless Feifke supplied the fuel. With one exception (noted below), Feifke's intense and high-powered charts neatly pave the way, giving the band a well-drawn road map on which to shape its dynamic course.
Feifke wastes no time before expressing his assertive point of view, opening with "Kinetic," a full-throttle flag-waver wherein he solos forcefully with trumpeter Gabriel King Medd and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr.. "Unveiling of a Mirror," which follows, is another buoyant swinger with solos to match by trumpeter Benny Benack III, tenor saxophonist Sam Dillon and drummer Joe Peri. Lucas Pino's warm tenor sax is showcased on "The Sphinx," which lessens the tempo and energy level only slightly, before vocalist Veronica Swift makes the first of her two appearances, on the Sammy Cahn & Saul Chaplin standard "Until the Real Thing Comes Along."
"Word Travels Fast," which uses flutes to impart its charming melody, swings tastefully in its own way, as do the solos by Feifke, Medd, Pino and drummer Jimmy Macbride. "Wollongong," a fast-moving charmer whose name sounds Australian, introduces alto saxophonist Andrew Gould and precedes Horace Silver's venerable jazz standard, "Nica's Dream," wherein Feifke and Benack are front and center in a sunlit version that swings with gusto. It is here, alas, that Feifke commits his only unforced error, presenting Swift in a tedious arrangement of Lerner and Loewe's "On the Street Where You Live" from My Fair Lady, one that may be well-intentioned but is misread in every way. Once past that, Feifke recovers his balance quickly with the beguiling "Midnight Beat," the last of the album's flat-out swingers, whose first-rate solos are delivered by bassist Dan Chmielinski and alto saxophonist Alexa Tarantino. Feifke closes on a relatively temperate plane with the elegant, chorale-like "Closure," spotlighting Dillon's sensuous tenor sax.
As noted, for those who appreciate contemporary big bands whose guiding purpose is swing, Kinetic should furnish ample excitement and pleasure. If Herman, Basie and Buddy Rich were still around, it is reasonable to surmise that this is the path they would have followed.
Kinetic; Unveiling of a Mirror; The Sphinx; Until the Real Thing Comes Along; Word Travels Fast; Wollongong;
Nica's Dream; On the Street Where You Live; Midnight Beat; Closure.
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