Saturday, March 16, 2019

Kenny Carr: “Departure” (2018) CD Review

Kenny Carr is a talented guitarist based in New York. You might know him from his work with Ray Charles (you can hear his playing on Just Between Us and see him on the DVD Live At Montreux 1997). Since Ray Charles’ death, Kenny Carr has been enjoying a solo career, featuring his own compositions. His most recent album, Departure, contains all original material, with Carr playing both guitar and guitar synthesizers. Joining the guitarist on this release are Donny McCaslin on saxophone, Hans Glawischnig on bass, and Kenny Wollesen on drums.

The CD opens with “Intervals,” creating this delicious alternate reality, where the entire world is a cool, exciting city, pulsing with music and desire and joy, with the saxophone flying around above us, and the bass inviting us to some specific magnetic establishment, where the guitar can then intoxicate us, so we reach that point where everyone else already seems to be, all the while the drums keeping us moving. What a wonderful track to get things going. It’s followed by “Time Change,” which has a slightly darker, more serious tone at the start. But there is still movement here, the world sliding beneath us, as the sax seems to tell us to climb above so that we can better see what’s happening on the ground. This is exciting music, keeping us on our toes, unsure what is around the corner; the pulse quickens, with the tune’s rhythm, and soon we are all situated on some new plateau, almost without being aware of the entire climb. And, hey, things are good up here.

“Tell Me I Can’t” begins with a strong, funky bass line that I love. It holds everything together, and keeps us propelling forward into some delightful realm. While the bass grooves, the guitar then dances above it. This is one to get your entire body moving. It is fun, with some wonderful stuff on saxophone. Toward the end, the guitar seems to rise like giant flowers bursting through concrete, changing the landscape. Things then mellow out a bit for “Warmth,” which has a more romantic bent at the beginning. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be some interesting and exciting work on guitar. Plus, this track features a cool lead on bass. Yeah, the track may begin in a mellower place, but it certainly does not remain tame or restrained. As it approaches its climax, it gets wild, especially the saxophone. That’s followed by “D&P,” which has a delicious groove featuring more wonderful work on bass and some great stuff on drums. The saxophone seems to sing joyously above that great beat, moving and breathing, like some large, wondrous electric animal weaving its way among skyscrapers and dodging meteorites.

“Departure,” the album’s title track, is a mellower tune with something of a romantic feel. The guitar has a dreamlike quality at times, making you wish it could just carry you away into the night. When “Bear Call” begins, it has almost a progressive rock sound, in that brief moment before the sax comes in. The sax then takes it to a different level. I really dig the drums on this track. This one at times brings to mind a busy street, with the hustle and activity and energy. The disc then concludes with “Parallels,” which has kind of a light vibe at the start. It becomes a good jam, with plenty of nice stuff on guitar and a cool bass lead a little more than halfway through.

CD Track List
  1. Intervals
  2. Time Change
  3. Tell Me I Can’t
  4. Warmth
  5. D&P
  6. Evolutions
  7. Departure
  8. Waiting
  9. Bear Call
  10. Parallels
Departure was released on November 1, 2018.

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