Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Michael Kanan & Nat Su...

Well, Wayne Shorter was in great form on Sunday evening, proving that he's lost none of his edge over the years.

The gig opened with a long 50 minute-plus piece full of false starts and implied directions, very free and often atonal. The group were feeling their way into the music very publicly, and it was fascinating to watch/hear. A sizable portion of the audience lost patience and walked out - always a good sign.

That was their mistake, as the group then went on to play more focussed (but still very free) material, and even obliged with an encore. 'Mr Weird' may not have engaged in any banter with the audience, but this was one of the best gigs I've seen since the last time I saw the same group in Edinburgh around 5 years ago.

Before hearing them in person, I'd never have said that these four people would ever create anything special together, but somehow they just 'click'. A London gig by the quartet, recorded last November, is broadcast on BBC Radio Three (for those with access) this Friday evening. Worth stopping in for, staying up late, or even visiting the UK just to hear it!

Continuing the Konitz theme, here's a review of a CD very much influenced by the man. Not a great review - if the amount of gratuitous biog I pad it out with is anything to go by it could well be one of my worst...

Dreams & Reflections

Dreams; Introspection; I’ll Be Seeing You; Nobody Else But Me; Reflections; This Is New; Time On My Hands; Moonbow.

Nat Su (as); Michael Kanan (p)
No recording date provided.

Not so long ago I reviewed an interesting disc by the duo of Lee Konitz and Alan Broadbent. I speculated then about why Konitz suffers from a lack of wider acclaim or influence amongst his peers. Warne Marsh often gets name checked by younger musicians, but on this new Fresh Sounds release it is very definitely one of those occasions where Konitz and Lennie Tristano receive homage.

Michael Kanan, originally from Boston, moved to New York City in 1991, where he studied with Tristano student Sal Mosca. Between 1995 and 2001 he toured with vocalist Jimmy Scott, and other career high spots have included steady work with Jane Monheit, an appearance on Kurt Rosenwinkel’s Intuit (Criss Cross) and two other Fresh Sounds releases (Convergence and The Gentleman Is A Dope) with bassist Ben Street and drummer Tim Pleasant.

This duet with Swiss saxophonist Nat Su, a long-term collaborator, is the second recording by the pairing. Originally brought together by a mutual friend aware of their respective fondnesses for Tristano and Konitz, there’s no escaping those vital musical touchstones here.

‘Dreams’, a Tristano composition, has all of the mathematical precision and emotional ambiguity you’d expect from the style. Freedom lies within tight parameters and improvisations often resemble through-compositions, the two instruments logically enmeshed in concert.

‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ is given an unhurried and wistful reading that reminds me how much of an influence Lester Young was to many of Konitz’s generation. Elsewhere there are a couple of Monk pieces, a smattering of standards and a sprightly Kanan-composed coda.

Certainly a departure from the predominantly post-bop sound associated with this label, but anybody partial to coolness with a capital ‘C’ will be pleased to make the acquaintance of this pair. Those finding the style a touch too dry will find little in Dreams & Reflections to stir the passions. Quality is assured, so make your choice on this basis.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, November 2005)


Anonymous said...


I am curious, were John Patitucci and Brian Blade in Wayne Shorter's group the night you describe seeing them? I love Brian Blade!

The Ghost of Jerry Reed said...

Baha, I guess Shorter's opener being a meandering 50 minutes separated the wheat from the chaff...