1. Soon It's Gonna Rain
2. Let's Call This
6. Song Along the Way
8. Nature Boy
9. Kevin's Birthday Blues
10. Flight (Reprise)
CD Quality - 16 bit / 44.1 khz
The best musical performances exhibit a natural balance, an ease of expression and musical dialog. It could be the rapport between the musicians, comfort with the material being played, just something special in the air, or maybe a combination of all of these. Saxophonist / composer Adam Kolker’s performances are like this. His stirring new CD, Reflections (Sunnyside, 2011), is a great example of the alignment of the right material, responsive musical support, and some magic.
Philadelphia-born Kolker has had a busy career. Along with teaching, he was a principal member of Ray Barretto’s New World Spirit ensemble. Kolker has led his own groups and recorded a number of albums under his name, including his acclaimed Flag Day (Sunnyside, 2008). He also performed alongside such luminaries as Gunther Schuller, John Abercrombie, Maria Schneider, Kenny Wheeler, Rick Margitza, and Billy Hart.
Throughout his active musical career, Kolker forged lasting friendships with a number of incredible and original musical stylists. Reflections was intended to be a showcase for Kolker and his closest musical colleagues. “I wanted to do a recording with my friends – both musical and personal. I knew recording with them would be the easiest, most natural thing in the world. And it was,” Kolker said.
The CD began as a collection of duos, then trios, and evolved into a flexible ensemble with guests. The core ensemble was Kolker doubling on tenor saxophone, alto flute, bass clarinet, flute, and Bb clarinet, alongside bassist John Hébert and drummer Billy Mintz. This core was then expanded to include guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Russ Lossing, and vocalists Judi Silvano and Kay Matsukawa. Kolker decided to feature compositions by Mintz, Silvano, Lossing, and Hébert, among some well-chosen standards and two original tunes he himself composed. “I love everyone’s compositions and wanted to include them, too, as they’re as much a part of their personalities as their playing,” Kolker said.
The first song, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” begins with a fugue-like arranged intro for Kolker’s overdubbed woodwinds before the recognizable melody is led in with tenor sax and Abercrombie’s restrained guitar. Thelonious Monk’s “Let’s Call This” gets a lean trio treatment with ideas dancing between Kolker’s tenor and the supportive rhythmic team of Hébert and Mintz. Kolker’s “Reflection” features the support of Russ Lossing’s delicate piano, which complements the subdued, introspective quality of the tune. The piano remains on “Boscarob,” featuring the writing and vocal acrobatics of Judi Silvano, who trades lines with the other soloists with zest on this up-tempo foot tapper.
Mintz’s breezy trio tune, “Flight,” settles things down and provides a free section of solo exchange, sounding as though the musicians were circling each other in the air. Lossing provides the gorgeous reverie, “Song Along the Way,” that quietly churns under a yearning tenor sax. The bass naturally leads the way on Hébert’s “Fez,” which has a playful rhythm that switches from a galloping Middle Eastern tinge to swing and has an aggressive edge. Eden Ahbez’s “Nature Boy” has Kolker on flute accompanying the supple vocal of Kay Matsukawa in a candid duo setting. Guitarist John Abercrombie returns on Kolker’s “Kevin’s Birthday Blues” for a mellow yet colorful and expressive blues.
Adam Kolker has impressed listeners with his phenomenal playing and his attention to detail. On Reflections, he assembled a fantastic ensemble that was able to create music at the same time diverse and cohesive. This collective effort paid off and resulted in a stirring and resonant recording.
released May 3, 2011
Adam Kolker (tenor sax, alto flute, bass clarinet, flute, clarinet)
John Hébert (bass)
Billy Mintz (drums)
John Abercrombie (guitar 1, 9)
Russ Lossing (piano 3, 4, 6)
Judi Silvano (voice 4)
Kay Matsukawa (voice 8)