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Tom Kennedy: Stories

Jim Worsley By

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It's commonplace that an artist will have a concept or theme in mind when starting a record project. To build from the ground up without any preconceptions could be a recipe for a disaster. However, if it didn't crash and burn and, in fact, went the other direction, the possibilities then become infinite. With no boundaries and nothing to be tethered to, the sky's the limit. Tom Kennedy boldly took that approach to his new record. He took flight with eight original compositions, longtime collaborators Dave Weckl and Jay Oliver, and a host of other talented musicians.

Launched like a rocket ship, "Hurry Up!" has the unrestrained adrenaline rush the song title would imply. Weckl is left to improvise freely between pulsating horns and Oliver's guitar like keyboard riffs. While variations and improvisational lyricism are abundant on Stories, one constant is the power and grace that Kennedy and Weckl exude in captaining both a rhythm section and an ensemble that is purposeful and high-spirited. Following "Hurry Up!," a formidable and finely navigated Kennedy bass line then richly defines his beautiful melody, "Elements." Gary Meek's tenor sax adds an early punch before colliding with an asteroid that has the distinctive tone of Mike Stern. One of a few big-time guest artists to appear on a song or two, Stern glistened in support of Kennedy's vision. Kennedy now shifted into a funky zone that indeed was reminiscent of "The '70s." Oliver flew off into a scintillating orbit that is just downright nasty. This time Meek picked up his soprano and slid naturally into the groove Kennedy and Weckl were kicking and jamming through with abandon.

The voyage had now taken shape and was comfortably embraced by the mood enhancing and well-arranged title track, "Stories." Not surprisingly, trumpeter Randy Brecker and tenor saxophonist Ada Rovatti fit hand in hand ( they are a married couple, in case you don't know) on this track. It is also within this title track that Weckl unleashes an inspired solo, notable even within his many famed, rigorous and gloriously polyrhythmic pieces of work. Never losing steam, the high energy bliss of "Don't Forget Your Jacket" is accentuated by Oliver's keys and, well, frankly the entire group. Particularly by percussionist Roger Squitero, who rhythmically fortifies the ensemble on seven of the record's eight tunes. Kennedy switches to his acoustic bass, he played electric on all the other tunes, and sumptuously leads us into and through the delightfully melodic and joyous verve of "Simple Song." The enigmatic bass solo is part of a scene that intriguingly floats by with elegance and a hint of mystery. Seemingly as to not disrupt the mood, performances by violinist Sarina Suno and Rovatti, this time on soprano sax, are softly embedded upon the imagery.

On "Altitude" the cerebral sensitivity of the great Bill Evans is embodied as he renders poetic on tenor sax, before later painting delicate strokes on his soprano. Kennedy closes in a vibrant manner that is indicative of the bursts of energy, grooves and fiercely driven tunes layered throughout the record. "BB's Blues" again showcases Kennedy's adroit arrangements, as well as his masterfully melodic and creative compositional skills.

Kennedy checks his ego at the door. It's all about the music. As it should be. A true ensemble firing on all cylinders. You will hear no "listen to what I can do" posturing from Kennedy. Such self- indulgence would only sully the art form. You will, however, hear some exceptionally well connected and original jazz fusion. It's all together possible you may want to hear it again, and again, and..... Kennedy and Weckl have long been a dynamic and accomplished pocket of rhythm. They have steadied and guided the ship on hundreds of records with a multitude of the jazz elite. Stories puts them up front again, or as the late great bassist Paul Chambers would say "on top." It's a spot that suits them nicely.

Track Listing

Hurry Up!; Elements; The '70s; Stories; Don't Forget Your Jacket; A Simple Song; Altitude; BB's Blues.

Personnel

Tom Kennedy: bass; Dave Weckl: drums; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Jay Oliver: keyboard; Roger Squitero: percussion; Ada Rovatti: saxophone; Mike Stern: guitar; Gary Meek: saxophone; Bill Evans (saxophone): saxophone; Roger Guth: drums; Sarina Suno: violin; Nick Marcione: trumpet.

Album information

Title: Stories | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Self Produced

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