John Kocur's first album as a bandleader is an enjoyable and varied recording, showcasing not only the alto saxophonist's own emerging talent but also those of band mates Amy Bormet on piano, Oliver Albertini on bass and C.V. Dashiell III on drums.
Washington D.C.-based Kocur produced the album as well as composing all of the tunes. The compositions are mainly straight-ahead and clearly influenced by the playing of past masters such as Johnny Hodges and Cannonball Adderley, but they are not simply derivative and the ballads in particular display a maturity in writing and playing.
"The Touch of Her Hair" is a sax-led ballad that could have come straight from the American Songbook. Kocur's alto is emotive without becoming cloying, and he resists the temptation to overplay, keeping the lines simple and hence more effective. Despite the title of the four-movement "Japan Suite," there is no obvious oriental influence on these tracks: "Movement 2" is the funkiest tune on the CD, thanks in particular to Albertini and Dashiell's bass and drums, while "Movement 4" contains a short but powerful solo from Dashiell and some raucous alto from Kocur.
As soloists, all four band members prove themselves to have imagination as well as skill. Bormet's piano introduction on "Unanswered Questions" is especially noteworthy: a delicate and restrained solo that melds perfectly with Kocur's sax at the halfway point of the tune to create a duet that represents the high point of the album.
The quartet's ensemble playing is excellent throughout, although occasionally the production results in the rhythm section becoming rather too loud and intrusiveAlbertini's bass on "Sheddin,'" for example. Overall, however, production quality is high. This young quartet of musicians has much to be proud of in this recording, which has confidence, inventiveness and flair.
Warrior's Call; Hope for a New Year; Running in the Rain; The Touch of Her Hair; Sheddin'; Independence Blues; Japan Suite (Movements 1-4); Fun Lovers.
John Kocur: saxophone; Amy Bormet: piano; Oliver Albertini: bass; C.V. Dashiell III: drums.
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.