107

Kenny Shanker: Steppin' Up

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
Alto Saxophonist Kenny Shanker is proof that an artist's direction isn't always reflected in their tonal personality. Shanker possesses a sleek-and-sweet tone that has served him well on dates with big name ghost band, like the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, as well as smooth-leaning pianist David Benoit, but his own music operates outside of the "contemporary jazz" orbit.

Shanker occasionally hints at the simpler side of jazz, with an easily appealing, less-is-more melody ("Home Sweet Home") or a heart-wrenching ballad ("Sarah") that showcases his tender side, but he also puts his silky saxophone to good use in more striking fashion. He throws caution to the wind on the urgent "Fifth And Berry," which showcases a bevy of bravura solos from various band members, turns up the heat during his solo on "Quirk," and brings a sense of elation to "E.J."

While Shanker didn't invite any horn players to join him here, guitarist Lage Lund occasionally serves as his front line partner. Both men complement each other when working in tandem, but Lund's greater contributions come with his solos. He pushes at the boundaries of Shanker's songs in pleasurable ways and brings a thoroughly modern slant to this music. Pianist and label mate Art Hirahara also shares Lund's sense of adventure when soloing, and his comping pushes Shanker in some unexpected directions during the saxophonist's solo flights.

While Hirahara mans the keys for the majority of this music, Mike Eckroth takes over on three numbers, and his playing is in-line with Shanker in every way. His soloing on Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere" is a sparkling example of measured contemplation and musicality, and completely captures the emotional essence of "Sarah."

It took Shanker eight post-college years to step out and record this debut, and the album aged on the shelves for another two-plus years, but it was worth the wait. Steppin' Up signals the arrival of another unique and promising saxophone personality in the ever-impressive Posi-Tone stable.

Track Listing: Winter Rain; Fifth and Berry; Rhapsody; Quirk; E. J.; Sarah; Prowl; Saints; Home Sweet Home; Somewhere.

Personnel: Kenny Shanker: alto saxophone; Art Hirahara: piano; Lage Lund: guitar; Yoshi Waki: bass; Brian Fishler: drums: Mike Eckroth: piano (4, 6, 10).

Title: Steppin' Up | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Triple Double CD/LP/Track Review Triple Double
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Agrima CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 21, 2017
Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read "Of Tides" CD/LP/Track Review Of Tides
by John Eyles
Published: March 7, 2017
Read "Disappeared Behind the Sun" CD/LP/Track Review Disappeared Behind the Sun
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 29, 2017
Read "Avenida Graham" CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "A Home In Between" CD/LP/Track Review A Home In Between
by Troy Dostert
Published: July 17, 2017
Read "How to Build a City" CD/LP/Track Review How to Build a City
by Jim Olin
Published: January 1, 2017
Read "In The Past" CD/LP/Track Review In The Past
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 2, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.