Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

50

Two OA2 Records Releases Featuring Pianist Michael Kocour

Mark Sullivan By

Sign in to view read count
Two recent releases from OA2 Records feature piano playing and production by Michael Kocour, a longtime member of the Chicago jazz scene (and a regular sideman with the late James Moody and Benny Golson). He has been director of jazz studies at Arizona State University since 2004.

Enter the album name hereUnhinged Sextet
Clarity
OA2 Records
2015

Unhinged Sextet sounds like many things—for example: swinging, cohesive, hot—but "unhinged" is not one of them. The group is a collaborative brought together by long-standing mutual associations, but they had never played together until gathering in Arizona to rehearse and record this album. Clearly their belief that they would work well together was borne out by the results: I defy anyone to think this was a first time session after hearing it. The program is all originals, with everyone except drummer Dom Moio contributing at least one tune.

The opener "Unhinged" could be the group's signature: a Latin flavored hard bop burner with all of the players fired up. Kocour contributes a bit of outside piano, which is about as unhinged as the session gets. "Far From East" changes the group dynamic with a theme that employs a dialog between tenor saxophonist Matt Olson and trumpeter Vern Sielert, with ensemble commentary. "Watch Out Of The Way" gives drummer Moio some space, featuring a sax/drum duet and a (short, tasteful) drum solo. The title tune was written by bassist Jon Hamar, but features the trumpet. Trumpeter Sielert returns the favor by writing one of the album's most distinctive bass lines on "Derecho."

The song list continues with the tenor sax feature "Too Deep" (written by Kocour), the ballad "Leaving Soon" from the pen of alto saxophonist Will Campbell, and "Las Palmas," which includes a bass solo. The album ends on a high note with Kocour's "Squiggles," which surely recalls Thelonious Monk, without being at all derivative. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but it's a first-class collection of modern jazz, with strong playing and exciting, varied original compositions.

Enter the album name hereMichael Kocour
Wherever You Go, There You Are
OA2 Records
2015

For this solo piano project Kocour chose to emphasize standards. But it's neither a straightforward mainstream program, nor an aggressively experimental one. Kocour is a brilliant technician, but he never uses technique to show off—only to tell a story. Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma" opens the set, with so much independence between the hands that it's almost a duet. "Winter's Spell" is the first original, a more conventional approach to a tune that sounds like a standard. Then Clare Fischer's "Pensativa" introduces a new wrinkle, the first of three tracks performed on Fender Rhodes electric piano. It's an interesting contrast, and a tune well suited to the instrument. Kocour says that he tried this tune (and the later Eddie Harris one) on acoustic piano first, but wasn't satisfied with the results. The electric instrument also has associations with this repertoire: Eddie Harris and James Moody both made recordings featuring it.

Kocour's fresh approach to the standards really comes into focus on "Just In Time," which opens with a busy accompaniment pattern, revealing the melody slowly: it's a minute or so into the three-minute track before we hear the whole thing. Eddie Harris's "Freedom Jazz Dance" brings back the electric piano for a funky arrangement especially suited to the Rhodes.

The title tune (another Kocour original) comes from a saying James Moody often used to conclude stories told onstage. Something about this recalls Chick Corea—not a comparison that occurred to me before this track—but it also includes some very traditional walking bass accompaniment. It's easy to believe that Kocour has also recorded on organ, which frequently takes the bass role. Thelonious Monk's "Evidence" closes the set, another reference (like "Squiggles" on the Sextet album) to the seminal bebop pianist and composer who Kocour earlier spotlighted on the album Speaking in Tongues (Tempest, 2006). It's a gentle, slightly abstract treatment, which again includes walking bass in one section.

The pianist on this solo project is readily identifiable from the Sextet recording: swinging mainstream jazz piano. But it's an interesting view of Kocour's creative range when free of accompanying duties, and it's a broad range indeed.

Tracks and Personnel

Clarity

Tracks: Unhinged; Far From East; Watch Out Of The Way; Clarity; Too Deep; Down South; Scout, No Doubt; Leaving Soon; Derecho; Change; Las Palmas; Squiggles.

Personnel: Will Campbell:alto saxophone; Matt Olson:tenor saxophone; Vern Sielert:trumpet; Michael Kocour:piano; Jon Hamar:bass; Dom Moio:drums.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Tracks: Con Alma; Winter's Spell; Pensativa; How About You?; Just In Time; Freedom Jazz Dance; How Deep Is The Ocean; Wherever You Go, There You Are; An Affair To Remember; Evidence.

Personnel: Michael Kocour: piano, Fender Rhodes.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Don't Blink

Don't Blink

Unhinged Sextet
Don't Blink

CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
Read more articles
Don't Blink

Don't Blink

OA2 Records
2017

buy
Clarity

Clarity

OA2 Records
2015

buy

Related Articles

Read 3x3: Piano Trios, vol. III Multiple Reviews
3x3: Piano Trios, vol. III
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 10, 2018
Read New releases from Jürg Frey, Clara de Asis and Stefan Thut Multiple Reviews
New releases from Jürg Frey, Clara de Asis and Stefan...
by John Eyles
Published: December 7, 2018
Read Classic vinyl remasterings from Storyville Multiple Reviews
Classic vinyl remasterings from Storyville
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 5, 2018
Read Thumbscrew: Ours & Theirs Multiple Reviews
Thumbscrew: Ours & Theirs
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 25, 2018
Read 3x3: Piano Trios, vol. II Multiple Reviews
3x3: Piano Trios, vol. II
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 19, 2018
Read Lee Michaels: Dinosaurs Still Rule! Multiple Reviews
Lee Michaels: Dinosaurs Still Rule!
by Doug Collette
Published: November 17, 2018
Read "Clean Feed 2018" Multiple Reviews Clean Feed 2018
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 9, 2018
Read "Seth Yacovone Band and Radio Underground: Rockin' the Green Mountains" Multiple Reviews Seth Yacovone Band and Radio Underground: Rockin' the...
by Doug Collette
Published: November 17, 2018
Read "Van Morrison: Roll With The Punches & Versatile" Multiple Reviews Van Morrison: Roll With The Punches & Versatile
by Doug Collette
Published: December 17, 2017
Read "Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy" Multiple Reviews Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy
by Doug Collette
Published: November 3, 2018
Read "Groovemeisters: Dennis Coffey and Barry Goldberg" Multiple Reviews Groovemeisters: Dennis Coffey and Barry Goldberg
by Doug Collette
Published: July 20, 2018