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Stan Killian: Unified

Bruce Lindsay By

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Unified is tenor saxophonist Stan Killian's third album and his debut for the Sunnyside label. It's high-quality, straight-ahead modern jazz, played with a real swing by Killian and his band, and enlivened by the contributions of three top-drawer guest horn players.

Leader/composer Killian hails from Texas, home of Texas tenors like Arnett Cobb and Illinois Jacquet. Killian's own sound certainly has a big, wide open, feel to it but there's a gentleness there as well, a warmth and friendliness of tone. Venezuelan pianist Benito Gonzalez has a lightness of touch that enables him to create some delicate but swinging solos, as well as some finely tuned rhythms.

Killian and Gonzalez play on all seven tunes, interlacing their instrumental lines with a skill and confidence that suggests a longstanding musical relationship. Bassists Corcoran Holt and Bryan Copeland, and drummers Darrell Green and McClenty Hunter share rhythm section duties. Whatever the combination of players, each of the quartets is impressive in its own right the rhythm playing of Gonzalez, Hunter and Holt that underpins Killian's lyrical solo on "Center" being particularly fine. The addition of a guest player to each of the numbers simply puts icing on the musical cake.

The three guest musicians on Unified are all bona fide stars of modern jazz—and they more than repay Killian's invitation. Of the two trumpeters, Jeremy Pelt's brighter sound is a fine contrast to Killian's. Roy Hargrove's tone is a little warmer, less bell-like, and complements rather than contrasts with the tenor player.

David Binney adds alto sax to three numbers, his sound also complementing Killian and adding depth to their unison playing. On Gonzalez's "Elvin's Sight"—dedicated to drummer Elvin Jones and featuring excellent percussion from Green—the pair swings beautifully, while on the hauntingly dreamlike "Unified," both saxophonists give controlled but emotionally engaging performances.

The guests on Unified all play beautifully, and their presence certainly attracts attention. But Killian's own contributions as lead musician/writer are stylish and engaging, and the core quartets on the album demonstrate their ability to stand alone as musical ensembles , just as the album title suggests.

Track Listing: Twin Dark Mirrors; Elvin's Sight; Unified; Center; Isosceles; Window of Time; Eternal Return.

Personnel: Stan Killian: tenor saxophone; Benito Gonzalez: piano; Corcoran Holt: bass (1, 4, 5, 7); Bryan Copeland: bass (2, 3, 6); Darrell Green: drums (1-3, 5, 6); McClenty Hunter: drums (4, 7); Roy Hargrove: trumpet (1, 5); Jeremy Pelt: trumpet (4, 7); David Binney: alto saxophone (2, 3, 6).

Title: Unified | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


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