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Bill Cantrall & Axiom: Live at the Kitano

Edward Blanco By

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The Kitano New York Hotel, in midtown Manhattan, offers one of the city's most intimate jazz lounge settings, and it is in this boutique hotel that trombonist Bill Cantrall follows up his critically acclaimed debut, Axiom (Up Swing, 2008), with an audacious second effort simply titled Live at the Kitano. Enlisting a core quintet group as he did on his first album, Cantrall's Axiom band contains many of the same players and includes alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo and trumpeter Freddie Hendrix teaming up on the expanded "Axiom," the album's lengthy (almost 24-minute) signature tune and title piece from his debut.

As live recordings go, this measures up as one of the finest live sets around, boasting excellent audio revealing a crisp sound and clear audience response. Influenced and inspired by the music of trombonist Curtis Fuller, trumpeter Lee Morgan and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, among others, Cantrall immersed himself in the hard bop and modern jazz sounds which, comes through loud and clear here. The hard-grooving lines he pens throughout this set first appear on the smoking "B.B.M.," where tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard comes out blazing followed by a strong performance from pianist Rick Germanson, in addition to the trombonist's own energetic solo.

Originally introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1932 Broadway show The Gay Divorcee, "After You" is a little-known Cole Porter song that Cantrall rearranges here, featuring plenty of solo space for the pianist, the saxophonist and bassist Gerald Cannon, and turns out to be one of the gems of the set. The hard-driving and probing "Sharphead" features another swinging arrangement, with plenty of electricity and hard-bop. "Shaniece," though spelled differently ("Shanice") on his debut album, is named for an old friend and departs from the main hard bop-textured theme—the only warm, sweet ballad of the set—allowing the trombonist to display the softer side of his music and his playing. Dillard is also distinguished here, peeling off tender beautiful phrases on soprano.

On "Like I Said," the band returns to the recording's swinging nature with what is truly a "soloist's dream," as the press clippings indicates, providing every member of the quintet, including Oakland native, drummer Darrell Green, an opportunity to shine on a dozen minutes of swinging pleasure.

When sampling Live at the Kitano one can only imagine how magical of an evening it must have been on June of 2010 at The Kitano. A live date that captures the power, passion and astounding musicianship of trombonist and leader Cantrall and his Axiom band, it's a hard-blowing session of propulsive hard bop and modern jazz grooves in the finest tradition of old school jazz.

Track Listing: B.B.M.; After You; Sharphead; Shaniece; Like I Said; Axiom; Maker's.

Personnel: Bill Cantrall: trombone; Stacy Dillard: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Rick Germanson: piano; Gerald Cannon: bass; Darrell Green: drums; Mike DiRubbo: alto saxophone (6); Freddie Hendrix: trumpet (6).

Title: Live at the Kitano | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Up Swing Records


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