CD REVIEW: Neil Kelly Quartet - Rivers Converge
By Dan Cohen - 12/21/2010 - 04:36 PM EST
Artist: BAND: Neil Kelly Quartet
Album: Rivers Converge
Label: First Orbit Sounds
Genre: Acoustic jazz
Sounds Like: wes montgomery, crusaders
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 10/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Rivers Converge, Paradox in Blue, The Raven in September, Leave of Absinthe
Neil Kelly Quartet's 'Rivers Converge' is a very good
album. A beautiful album, beautifully played, impeccably recorded, full of
wild, wonderful, rambling, exploratory tunes. It may even be great.
What makes an album great? First-you need interesting
tunes, well arranged. Check. Kelly brings a clear, warm-toned sound to the
title track and the other spirited and varied melodies. His playing is
evocative of Wes Montgomery, Four on Six era, but the style is all his
own-- packed with info, little arguments and asides, melodies and interjections,
like a man arguing with himself, yet also full of beauty. And undeniably funky.
you've got to have the players. Check. Saxman Jonathan Bautista (typo on
inside cover- can we proofread, people, puh-leeze??!!) is a stand-out, from the bright
sunny playing on Trinity to the slow build of Threshold. It's hard to find a
good soft tenor sax sound, other than that heavy, breathy, Ben
Webster-type tone (which I love, btw), but Bautista brings something different,
a deft touch and clear line to the melodies as well as his solos. A real find.
The rest of the band is just as good. Jemal Ramirez is the excellent drummer,
despite some overplaying (less is more on the lovely Paradox in Blue, my man!),
from the up-tempo old school jazz groove of title tune to the light funky of Raven in
September and the latin-inflected Leave of Absinthe. And bassist Lukas Vesely
sounds great (a little hard to hear, though, light in the mix), especially his
fly solo on Absinthe.
My only caveat...what is it about serious musicians that
makes them want to look so, well, serious? The cover pictures the band in the
woods. Gorgeous day, dappled sunlight streaming through the trees. Very
California. And yet the band looks like they just escaped from prison, or are
about to be attacked by goblins. Or both. Only Bautista manages a smile.
Perhaps it's due to his fly headgear,
an old style porkpie hat in subdued lavender. Mingus meets the Joker!
But imagine you're an escaped con and you're being pursued by other-worldly
creatures. Plus you just bit the head off a squirrel. And you don't even like
squirrel. In fact, you hate squirrel. That's Neil in this picture. Lighten up!
This is the best jazz album I've heard this year. Tunes are quirky and fun, and
it feels like you had a ball making the record. It's not easy to make a jazz
album that rocks, but I think that's what we have here. Complete with the heavy
metal pose on the cover. Heavy metal jazz? Could be the next big thing. With
Neil Kelly leading the charge. So Neil, buddy-- You made a great modern jazz
album! Crack a smile! Feel the love! Smell the eucalyptus! Or go buy some chain
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