miércoles, 4 de enero de 2017

Paul Yonemura - Kindred Spirits (2017)


This recording was originally going to be a collection of heavily reworked jazz standards and older originals that had been forgotten about. David Dunaway on bass and Frank Martin on piano were easy choices for section mates, since we have known each other for so many years, but a new face to my projects was saxophonist Rick Condit. Rick may be a new face to something under my leadership, but he’s another longtime friend, so this turned into another reunion. Rick also brought in several tunes, including one of his own, so the original idea for the project took a very different turn for me. No complaints! Here is a rundown of what we came up with.

Junior was one of Rick’s tunes, written as a tribute to his longtime friend, Romanian pianist Ion Baciu Jr. Rick and Ion have played together extensively during Rick’s many visits to Romania and are very close friends. Ion’s Romanian nickname is Tuntu (pronounced tzuntzu), which means junior. The melody is a fast-moving playful line, harmonized between piano and alto saxophone, with some Latin 6/8 interjections. The tempo is lively, and Rick’s arrangement of the tune really gives the quartet a fine ensemble sound, with great changes to blow over, and some great lines for Rick and David to play together. David is a wonderful melodic player, as well as a fine accompanist, so this was a real treat for him. Rick is the first soloist up, putting in the right amount of sizzle. Frank follows up with a melodic interlude with David and takes off on his own journey through the changes, keeping the fire stoked. I get a solo in at the end and then we return to the melody and slam the door on this fine opener.

Toys is by Herbie Hancock recorded on Hancock’s Speak Like A Child album, as well as the first V.S.O.P. album. Reading the notes from the album, Hancock wanted something that hinted at a blues feel, but wasn’t a blues. I heard this tune a lot with the Herbie Hancock Sextet, always liked it very much and wondered why no one else played it. Having two grandchildren, I wanted something I could dedicate to them and this tune was the answer I came up with. Frank, Rick, and David are the soloists and the tempo cools off everything after our opening track. To Avery and Miles, this one is for you.

Close To Home is a lovely piece of music by trumpeter Dennis Dotson. I remember hearing Dennis playing with the Woody Herman Herd and had the opportunity to meet and play with him with a group he and Rick had, the Louisiana Jazz 5. When I heard the recording that was done by Rick some years ago, it was a bossa nova feel. Rick wanted something different this time around and with some coaching from David, drawing on his knowledge of Brazilian music, I finally came up with something that I think everyone was happy with. Rick, Frank, and David shine here, capturing the mood perfectly.

C Moll is one of two tunes penned by Ion Baciu Jr. Rick and Ion recorded this in Romania and it had more of a Latin feel to the opening piano line. Since Rick has been living in Louisiana for a long time, he asked if I could do more of a street beat feel to the opening. The tune settles down in a straight-ahead feel and David really lays it down for all of us! Rick sits this one out after the melody, so Frank, David, and I do the honors here. Ion composed some nice rhythmic transitions to keep us all honest and we had a ball playing this. 

HMG #1 is an early tune by David Dunaway, written back in his college days. Originally, it was a fast samba tempo and was performed by two bands that David worked with, Visions (later known as Sahara) and pianist Mike Nock’s New Fourth Way. I remembered the tune and asked David to dig it up. He reworked the harmonies, drawing on his love for Brazilian music, particularly the music of Milton Nascimento. HMG stands for Harmonia Minas Geraes. Harmonia is Portuguese for harmony, and Minas Geraes is the state in Brazil where Nascimento is from. I played around with some different rhythms and textures for David and he told me this was exactly what he had in mind. The tempo is slower and the feel is much more relaxed than David’s original versions. He gets the opening solo, and stretches out, followed by Rick and Frank. Rick’s interpretation of the melody really sizzles, a lot of emotion expressed here.


Tom Wolfe, a fine guitarist and the Associate Dean in the College of Music at the University of Alabama, composed Breath of Innocence. The title was taken from one of those beautiful life moments of a child, his son Zach. Wolfe had been composing this tune and heard his son let out a sigh on the baby monitor while he was sleeping. Thus, the title of the tune came to be. This lovely tune gave us a chance to relax and use more space. I stay on brushes for this one and Rick gets the first solo, playing so lyrically! Frank follows up with a wonderfully restrained statement of his own, with David’s pedal tones singing underneath. The coda of the tune caps things off nicely. 

Elegy is the other tune by Ion Baciu Jr. Both of these were written in the early 1990s, when he was a student at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. The tune’s title may imply a somber feel, but this is anything but a somber composition! Frank and Rick do the honors and the feel moves back and forth between a bright straight-eighth note feel to more of a half-time gospel-tinged feel. The overall feeling gave us all quite a lift at that point in the session. I hope Ion is happy with how we performed both of his tunes. It was our privilege to be able to feature them here. I look forward to meeting Ion someday, hope I will get to perform with him. 

First Flight Home is my tune, the title tune from my first LP recording . The original feel was a FAST straight eighth note feel and I was never totally happy with it. Dropping the tempo and changing the style to what resolves into a rocking straight ahead feel did the trick, along with playing around with the melodic style and giving David a different bass line to play on the melody sections. The title comes from how I felt at the end of each spring semester in college, wanting to get the final exams done and get on the first plane back home. We all get a crack at this final statement for the project and I believe it brings everything to a fitting close.


The only thing left to do after all was said and done was to find a title. Because this was a gathering of longtime friends who still have a lot of good musical chemistry, Kindred Spirits seemed to be appropriate. I hope you enjoy the results.

1. Junior 6:58
2. Toys 7:35
3. Close to Home 8:05
4. Cmoll 6:32
5. HMG Number 1 7:54
6. Breath of Innocence 5:20
7. Elegy 5:28
8. First Flight Home 8:14

Frank Martin – Piano
David Dunaway – Bass
Rick Condit – Alto Saxophone