Album Review: Vortex from Kenny Shanker
Artist: Kenny Shanker
Label: Wise Cat Records
Saxophonist Kenny Shanker is back with his third release Vortex and his first outing on Wise Cat Records. From the bustling, urban-like activity of the title track to the leisurely wandering stroll of “Lulu’s Back in Town” and the waltzing cantor of “Winter Song,” Shanker’s playing describes images that listeners can easily envision, each relatable to real world scenes.
The bowing and refracting of Yoshi Waki’s bass along “Winter Song” adds another element alongside Shanker’s pendulum-swinging saxophone toots, while the frenzied pace of his saxophone fomenting “Hunter” is joined by the rustling movements of Mike Eckroth’s keys and Daisuke Abe’s frothy guitar riffs. “Rumble” lowers the tempo to a cruising gait, and “Nightfall” slows the pace to an introspective musing as Shanker’s saxophone imbues a nocturnal shimmer over the melodic soundscape.
Shanker’s tweaking of Dave Brubeck’s bopping grooves along “The Duke” hold onto the familiar themes that captivated audiences, and the dulcet wisps of Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert and Johnny Mercer’s ageless gem “Autumn Leaves” pervade a nostalgic aura while bringing the tune into the modern age. His traction on these melodies is tight, showing a reverence for these tunesmiths that audiences can discern.
Shanker takes listeners on another plane along his recording, where the astral figures that he and his band project form descriptive images. While Shanker plays the role of the designer, the listener is the observer, absorbing each aspect of the tale being narrated. It’s an adventure that not only draws one’s attention but keeps one coming back to his designs again and again.
Musicians:Kenny Shanker - Alto Saxophone (all tracks), Soprano Saxophone on “Midnight Snack”Bill Mobley - Trumpet on “Vortex.” “Ramble,” and “Cinnamon”
Daisuke Abe - Guitar
Mike Eckroth - Piano
Yoshi Waki - Bass
Brian Fishler – Drums