Kind Folk – Why Not (2018)

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Four rising stars of New York’s modern jazz scene pooled together their ample resources, making music that is — to use an overworked phrase — greater than the sum of its parts. Kind Folk’s Why Not is the culmination of get togethers with Alex LoRe (alto sax), John Raymond (trumpet), Colin Stranahan (drums) and Noam Wiesenberg (bass) that started in 2014. But this isn’t a casual collaboration as the four sound committed to this project, a quartet of bandleaders and composers who thrive in the opportunity to function as a democracy.

The lack of a chordal instrument is scarcely noticed because of harmony between LoRe and Raymond that effectively makes up for that absence, and produces the side benefit of making Stranahan’s drums and Wiesenberg’s bass more noticeable. They hold up quite well to the increased exposure.

“Kind Folk” is the Kenny Wheeler song that the band named itself after. It goes with the tried and true head-solo-solo-head schematic but it’s crisp and effortless and like veterans beyond their years, these guys resist the urge to get overheated. “Capricorn” takes the temperature down even further, keynoted by LoRe’s articulate sax aside. Raymond gets his own spotlight on the one-minute “Break,” just him and Stranahan making a little bit of hay and the first of three short one-on-one improvs.

The thing that pops out on “#14” is not so much the accomplished LoRe and Raymond solos but the unyielding drive going on underneath from Wiesenberg and Stranahan; this is a unit where no opportunity to make the whole sound better than the individual parts goes wasted. The two horns combine for a Lennie Tristano type motif on “Landmarks” while Stranahan puts down some funky swing on brushes. Before long, the rhythm section launches into a strong 4/4 rhythm headlined by some bodacious back-and-forth between LoRe and Raymond and a little bass spotlight from Wiesenberg.

“Motian Sickness” obviously refers to the late drumming great Paul Motian and accordingly, this begins with Stranahan paying homage on his kit; even after the rest of the band joins in, Stranahan is virtually improvising in Motian’s uniquely cerebral style, a testament to the legacy of Motian who could be such a large presence on the drums and not crowd out the front line. That’s one of Stranahan’s strengths as well.

Raymond and LoRe show excellent symmetry on “Waiting For The Open Door,” a wonderfully fully realized composition from Raymond. Lastly, Charlie Haden’s hushed “Silence” brings this successful project down to a soft landing.

Kind Folk is a new jazz supergroup that lives up to the promise its first time out. Why Not (Fresh Sound New Talent) will be available on September 14, 2018.

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