Arthur Kell – Victoria (Live In Germany) (2009)

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This live set is only Kell’s third album, but the bassist/composer offers a fully-conceived collection of songs that’s both modern and melodic. Providing the support are alto saxophonist Loren Stillman (Jackalope, Ecumenics), drummer Joe Smith (John McNeil, Ryan Blotnick) and guitarist Brad Shepik (Carla Bley, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Dave Douglas). Stillman and Shepik both appeared on an album by another bassist from the BJU stable, Alexis Cuadrado, but Kell’s conception is a little more narrowly focused on contemplative, logical melodies that nonetheless leave everyone plenty leeway for improvising.

Kell wrote all the compositions, which are uniformly good. “Victoria And Her Sisters” is notable by a intricate, intuitive melody and introduces Kell as a no-nonsense bass player with a lot of range. The memorable theme for “Suomi Sanni” is traced by Kell, and Shepik lays down a wonderfully fluid solo on it. “Pappa ABBA” proves that the boys know how to swing (and that Stillman can rip it up when the mood strikes), and “Dada” puts a very ticklish melodic construction over a rock-ish beat. The band pulls it off without any problems.

Victoria was very well recorded and mastered, utterly lacking extraneous sounds and everyone’s instruments easy to find in the mix. The energy fed from each other and spontaneity that comes from playing in front of an audience remains in this document. That it came out so well is a little amazing considering that the concert recordings were taken from German radio station tapings intended for broadcast, and no edits or remixes were necessary. Kell was so pleased with the results that he ultimately shelved plans to make of studio album of these songs. Good call.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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