Shan Kenner – The Behavior Of Vibration (2013)

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When L.A. native Shan Kenner plied his trade as a jazz guitarist in San Francisco, he found himself in a quartet with drummer Ches Smith. Later on after moving to New York, he led a trio with Rudy Royston behind the kit, a stint that bore Kenner’s first album Brooklyn Sketches, also with bassist Ryan Berg. That was in 2008. Five years later, Kenner is all set to release his second album The Behavior Of Vibration, which is supported by Berg again on standup bass, Darrell Green on drums and Albert Marques on piano.

Kenner’s brand of jazz is generously enhanced by world flavors, especially the Latin tinges, and this self-taught musician, composer, and bandleader shows off his diversity well on this new release. Kenner has an all-acoustic backing, but that doesn’t mean he plays jazz traditionally; the real charm of The Behavior Of Vibration is that in his own quiet way, he bucks against the prescription of mainstream jazz both in how the songs are played and how he writes them. Melodies are light and appealing but progress in an unrestricted, nearly avant-garde manner (the fetching title song with its meandering qualities but defined shapes is a prime example of those characteristics). “Seventh Trine” swings, but chord progressions are unconventional, almost like Lennie Tristano in its changes.

Almost every song is light on its feet, leaving plenty of breathing space for everyone, and everyone stays close to the harmony, because Kenner’s compositions are far too interesting to stray too far from. “Thumbprints” is spacious, modern acoustic fusion with Kenner supplying flamenco flourishes; no one aside from Al DiMeola has earnestly tackled jazz in that manner. When Kenner straps on his hollow body electric, he reveals rich octaves, such as the ones that buoy “Miracle Worker” and “Natural Selector.” His soft, glowing single-line sketches, sound particularly pretty on “April Fools” and particularly sizzling via the quicksilver bop runs within “Natural Selector.”

Kenner deftly performs free form jazz-rock “Maximizing the Gift” in what is mostly power guitar and drums, recalling Allan Holdsworth’s tour-de-force The Sixteen Men of Tain. That track doesn’t really go with the rest of the program, but it’s still a worthwhile glimpse into what Kenner and Green are capable of when they stretch out and improvise together.

The two covers, though overly familiar, are given treatments that are off the beaten path. Cole Porter’s “Night And Day” is performed as a sensitive piano/acoustic guitar duet with Marques. Bill Evans’ “Blue In Green” is Kenner’s acoustic guitar that he overdubbed with another acoustic guitar, played in a Latin style but remaining very respectful of the gorgeous melody.

A guitar record that serves up guitar with grace, sophistication and emotion, The Behavior Of Vibration is a flattering portrait of Kenner’s multifaceted style and flair.

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The Behavior Of Vibration goes on sale July 30. Visit Shan Kenner’s website for more info.

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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