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St. Louis–based pianist Kim Portnoy’s picturesque big–band date is much more fun than its meditative title implies. It was drummer Art Blakey who said music should “wash away the dust of everyday life,” and Portnoy’s shuffling title selection, which swings merrily along in the finest Jazz Messengers tradition, is dedicated to Blakey. Other dedicatees include Jelly Roll Morton (the playful “King Portnoy Stomp”), comedian Henny Youngman (“Take My Waltz. . .Please”), composer Anton Webern (“Blues for Anton,” based on the Webern/Schoenberg 12–tone model), George Gershwin (“Scattered,” which employs the harmonies of “I Got Rhythm”) and Kim’s late Grandfather Portnoy, a legendary story–teller who said that when the Portnoy family escaped from Czarist Russia to Belgium and encountered sidewalks for the first time, they fell down, and on reaching the other side of the street, “We Fell Up” (their misfortune, but a wonderful song title). Portnoy composed and arranged these and everythin g else on the disc including “Haunts Me,” a ballad for chamber Jazz orchestra and flugelhornist Randall Holmes; the dark–textured and multi–sectional “Watch and Wait,” the pop/Jazz ballad “Open Up Your Heart” (think “Jazz lite” radio) and a much–brighter–than–anticipated flirtation with orchestral minimalism, “Peek–a–Boo.” Besides Holmes and Portnoy, the enterprising soloists include trombonist Stamps, saxophonist/clarinetist Demarinis (who plays alto, not tenor as listed, on “Peek–a–Boo”), alto Karpowicz and guitarist Byrne. While much of the music is serious in its intent, it is always leavened with humor; as Portnoy writes of “Watch and Wait” — “It reflects my long–standing interest in composing extended works in a Jazz idiom and my desire to use the phrase ‘extended works in a Jazz idiom’ in these liner notes.” Wish I’d written that. But good as he is with words, Portnoy is even better with music, writing colorful and persuasive charts (several of which were recorded in co! ncert) that are consistently engaging and help make his radiant debut album well worth one’s consideration.
Track listing: King Portnoy Stomp; Take My Waltz Please; We Fell Up; Haunts Me; Blues for Anton; Wash Away the Dust of Everyday Life; Open Up Your Hearts; Watch and Wait; Peek–a–Boo; Scattered (71:04).
Kim Portnoy, composer, arranger, pianist; Mike Karpowicz, soprano, alto saxes, piccolo, flute, clarinet; Paul Demarinis, soprano, alto, tenor saxes, flute, clarinet; Robert Hughes, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone saxes, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet; Linda Presgrave, horn; Paul Hecht, Randall Holmes, trumpet, flugelhorn; Brett Stamps, trombone; Jim Martin, bass trombone; Tom Byrne, guitars; Ric Vice, electric and acoustic bass; Kevin Gianino, drums.
Contact: Kim Portnoy, P.O. Box 11205, Clayton, MO 63105
| Record Label: We Fell Up Music
| Style: Big Band
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.