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Tom Kennedy: New Start

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Tom Kennedy: New Start
When thinking of bassist Tom Kennedy, it can be instinctive to think of drummer Dave Weckl. Or vice versa. The two became friends and musical colleagues in their early teens. That is roughly a half century of playing, recording, touring, and much more together. Kennedy is known around the world as a premier, elite jazz and fusion electric bassist. Weckl has the same notoriety and brilliant skill set behind his drum kit. One could go on at length about their many accomplishments, but for today let's focus on the present.

New Start is the title of Kennedy's most recent record. It features nine new compositions, all by Kennedy. The storytelling aspect of this music is embodied in a strictly instrumental presentation. This makes the music more complex, more challenging and, in the end, more rewarding both for the musicians and the listeners. This approach actually started with Kennedy's last release; the aptly titled Stories, (Autumn Hill, 2021) was the beginning of a new chapter of compositional growth. Weckl and keyboardist Stu Mindeman lent their talents to every song. An array of talented artists contributed to various tracks on this studio gem. Which brings to mind Kennedy's rule of process—check egos and cell phones at the door. Replace them with a joyous attitude, be loose, ready to play, and have some fun. It is all about the music and what this group of musicians are able to accomplish together.

Special guest stars, trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Mike Stern, saxophonists Bill Evans, Bob Franceschini and Eric Marienthal, and percussionist Roger Squitero, certainly bring attention to the project. However, it is the manner in which each of these jazz masters was utilized that raised a potentially good record to a great one. Kennedy and Weckl lead the way on every song with their rhythmical genius, dynamic musicality, and clever changes. One thing not heard are overly long bass or drum solos. It is clearly about the music and what works best to tell the story. That is by no means to say all these cats will not be heard playing with passion and digging what they are doing. That, actually, is at the core of what makes New Start such an engaging release. Kennedy has released several solid jazz records in the past. One man's opinion is that New Start and Stories are brightened by a remarkable new sense of compositional awareness. What is as exciting as this record, is that after fifty years it is as if Kennedy is starting over. He has discovered a new well and one has reason to believe it is a gusher. Perhaps, like Jed Clampett, he will load up the truck and move to Beverly (pause) Hills that is. This is said in fun, obviously. Kennedy has lived his entire adult life in New York City. Although Weckl did move back to the St. Louis area a few years ago, where he and Kennedy both grew up, anything is possible...haha.

Breaking down all nine songs is a bit over the top sometimes. Often it is best to hear them alone without any preconceived conception. Having said that, guitarist Mike Stern brings his singular sound to "The Rocker." Kennedy wrote the perfect piece for the right guitarist to just let it fly. The virtuosic Stern did so while skillfully staying inside the melodic framework. The always upbeat Stern provided a mid record adrenaline rush. This jazz cadre provided the kind of depth one can latch onto without ever being overwhelmed. The record joyfully and harmoniously glides past as smooth as butter from one groove to another. One can hear the poetic and cerebral sound of Evans and the trumpet magic of Brecker. There is so much more, including, of course, the brilliant conversational interplay of Kennedy and Weckl which leads to superb improvisational play between everyone. There is a touch of Latin, rock, soul, jazz, fusion and more that is seamlessly blended into a top flight listening experience. Even though most of the tunes are pleasurably in the seven minute range New Start seems to blow by in an instant.. It's over? Already? There is a sure fire remedy for that. Listen to it again and again...

Track Listing

Anticipation, Hipshot, Espiritu Del Songo, The Rocker, Hand in Hand, On The Edge, Ripple Effect, Jazz It Up. Sq

Personnel

Album information

Title: New Start | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Autumn Hill


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