Kenny Carr – Idle Talk [TrackList follows] – Zoozazz 888295209168, 61:46 [5/19/15] ***1/2:
(Kenny Carr – guitar; Donny McCaslin – saxophone; Kenny Wollesen – drums; Hans Glawischnig – bass)
Guitarist Kenny Carr has paid his dues and reaps the rewards on his fifth album as leader, the hour-long Idle Talk. Carr attended Berklee College of Music and when he graduated in 1986, worked for the great Ray Charles for the next decade. Since that time, Carr has continued to hone his craft and create down-to-earth jazz records. Idle Talk is a quartet excursion which showcases Carr’s nine original compositions. The rhythm section consists of childhood friend/drummer Kenny Wollesen (see Bill Frisell) and bassist Hans Glawischnig (his credits include James Moody); and another childhood buddy, saxophonist Donny McCaslin, who is featured on all tracks.
Throughout, the foursome maintains a friendly vibe with nothing unconventional: aurally stimulating but not noisy, discordant or jarring. McCaslin and Carr shift their way from relaxed to quick tempos with surety and an ease which displays their many years as jazz artists. McCaslin is known for his varied music and arrangements on his solo outings, but here he stays true to Carr’s objectives, never stepping away from what Carr intends. This is straightforward post-bop with no surprises, no shocks, nothing which might daze listeners: delightful, honest and precisely produced jazz. There are several slow, methodical tunes which move with grace and style, particularly “Waltz,” which is done twice. The second take comes first and, at 10:16, is the lengthiest cut. McCaslin supplies a bluesy feeling, progressing up and down his sax, rendering multiple chords and fills. Carr does the same, nimbly working his way across his fretboard, providing a warm and clean, hollow-body guitar tone. Since the arrangement is extensive, there is space for Glawischnig to also present a bass solo, which shares the conviviality which McCaslin and Carr furnish. A shorter version of “Waltz” concludes the CD, and is not marginally altered from the other take, but does convey how a musical conversation can seem similar, but have different nuances and details. Another highlight is the outstanding tribute, “Song for Fen,” which has a steady gait which gradually escalates with understated improvisational elements and a memorable chorus. Like most tracks, McCaslin’s bright sax is the main attraction, although Carr’s soloing is nicely delivered. The most soothing selection is the quiet ballad, “Stay,” which has a fragile quality. McCaslin contributes soft, plumed guitar chords which are abetted by Wollesen’s empathetic brush strokes, and McCaslin’s serenely swelled sax lines. This tune has a serious but not somber compactness which is like a sonic sweet treat.
The eight-minute “Reunions” sustains a sociable setting, with lean drums and bass; pretty sax lines; and Carr’s guitar comps add to the rhythmic texture. If someone is searching for something to tap toes to or snap fingers, this one’s for you. Another affable, mid-tempo number is “Blues Coffee,” which aptly combines a blues connotation (and has some of Carr’s tastiest guitar licks) with a fun fluidity. Glawischnig gets another chance to exhibit his subtly-tinged bass skills, while Carr and McCaslin romp and cavort. Kenny Carr’s Idle Talk is a pleasant jazz journey with touches of blues and an easygoing frame of mind, with abundant melodicism and charm. You can hear some short sound clips on Carr’s website. Pick up Idle Talk if you need or want a shot of traditional, no-frills jazz. A solid effort.
TrackList: Idle Talk; Jocose; Reunions; Waltz (Take Two); Song for Fen; Stay; Anthrozoology; Blues Coffee; Waltz (Take One).