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Kenny Werner - Balloons (Half Note, 2011)


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Pianist and composer Kenny Werner brings together a fine post-bop unit consisting of David Sanchez on tenor saxophone, Randy Brecker on trumpet, John Pattitucci on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums. This album was recorded live at the Blue Note Club and features four long improvisations that allow for excellent ensemble playing and soloing on a variety of moods and textures.

The group opens with “Sada," a slow and probing composition that allows them to get their footing and explore the tactile quality of the music that moves along at a thoughtful and patient clip. “Siena" begins with a strong and vibrant clean sounding trumpet solo, playing a lengthy and confident section. Sanchez's saxophone enters in a tentative fashion before building with great speed and facility, playing with a beautiful strong deep tone. Werner develops a piano solo with a rich, full bodied approach before the full band returns sounding larger than five pieces as they conclude in a dynamic and powerful fashion.

Solo piano opens the title track “Balloons" in a melodic and probing manner with occasional Keith Jarrett like vocalisims. After a ringing and thoughtful piano interlude, the horns enter developing a lilting and floating medium tempo. There's a fine and buttery sounding mid-tempo trumpet solo from Brecker that slowly builds in intensity to a nice peak, backed by solid and inventive percussion. Strong, potent saxophone takes over with a well controlled, yet intense, interlude. The full band returns to the suspended and airy melody for the conclusion.

An up-tempo full band introduction begins “Class Dismissed," with a mellow and creamy trumpet solo that builds to a confident and clean climax. Ringing piano at a medium feel is back by nimble bass and drums, developing a potent trio interlude, running fast and dexterous. (Antonio) Sanchez builds an epic drum solo by starting slowly and quietly and adding rhythm bit by bit until he sounds like a drum choir of several musicians playing simultaneously. The full band returns to take out the set and the album, which was a very fine set of music and should appeal to a broad swath of jazz fans.

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This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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