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Kenny Shanker: Vortex


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Kenny Shanker: Vortex
Saxophonist Kenny Shanker is an award-winning composer hailing originally from California, now residing in New York. His debut album Steppin' Up (Positone, 2011) was followed by Action City (Positone, 2014), which helped garner him the ASCAP award for composition. In 2017, Shanker released his third recording, The Witching Hour (Wise Cat, 2017), on his own imprint. In 2021, Shanker released Beautiful Things (Wise Cat, 2021). Only to be followed by Shanker's 2022 release, Vortex (Wise Cat, 2022), a collection of original compositions and jazz standards. Shanker is joined by his longtime rhythm section of Mike Eckroth on piano, Daisuke Abe on guitar, Yoshi Waki on bass, and Brian Fishler on drums. In addition, Bill Mobley performs trumpet on select tracks.

The title track, "Vortex," highlights a two-horn melody with different feels and harmonic colors. Shanker develops a motif cell as the central theme, making it memorable and easy to follow. Eckroth takes the first solo and continues the idea by creating a motif as he builds around a chordal rhythmic figure. Shanker takes his solo in a relaxed manner and employs an exciting use of chromaticism. Abe's guitar tone is warm and echoes with expanding reverb as he builds a comfortable solo. Shanker's opening selection sets the tone for the project and immediately signals his acumen as a composer and leader of a venerable ensemble.

"Nightfall" is an expanding ballad penned by Shanker. The use of counterpoint shimmers with beauty as the straight eight melody reveals its journey through the chordal structures. Fishler adds noticeable hues from his kit, adding to the textures' depths, as Shanker takes an expressive ride through the form, building emotion, drama, and rich melodic colors. Eckroth gives a technically enlightened solo as he navigates the sonic landscape. Abe performs his solo on a nylon-strung guitar for a fitting color change to match the song's mood. The waves of textures in the written parts of the composition are fascinating, sometimes ethereal, and consistently mysterious.

Vortex demonstrates Shanker's tastefulness as he brings high-quality compositions and arrangements to life with this ensemble of talented musicians. They all have chops, and these modern jazz practitioners find a harmonious balance between composition and personal expressive freedom.

Track Listing

Vortex, Lulu's Back in Town, Winter Song, Hunter, Ramble, Nightfall, The Duke, Cinnamon, Midnight Snack, Autumn Leaves.


Kenny Shanker
Bill Mobley
Daisuke Abe
Yoshi Waki
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: Vortex | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Wise Cat Records

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