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Born This Day
Louis Armstrong and Steve Andrews.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

CD Review: Kenny Carr - Departure

Kenny Carr (guitars, synthesisers); Donny McCaslin (tenor sax); Kenny Wollesen (drums, percussion); Hans Glawischnig (bass).
(Review by Max Goodall).

Departure is Kenny Carr’s sixth LP as a leader and the second in a row with this line-up. Having spent the early part of his career as lead guitarist in the Ray Charles live band, Carr seems to have manoeuvred himself slightly since Charles’ passing, spending a greater amount of time in more traditional jazz contexts.

Despite this, his style still retains the rocky, bluesy, accessible elements of Ray Charles’ music which enabled his incredible worldwide success. These are strong particularly in the ostinato and riff-driven tunes which periodically appear throughout Departure, such as Tell Me I Can’t, and D&P. At times, these simpler harmonic frameworks are highly successful. For example, on the album’s sixth track Evolutions; the uncomplicated undulations between chord one and chord four in the solo section acting as a perfect frame for Carr and Donny McCaslin’s (tenor saxophone) improvisations. The harder end of this scale though is also felt on tunes such as Time Change. Here the frequent returns to the opening ¾ ostinato almost begin to verge on monotony.

Carr’s guitar playing throughout the record also bears out his influence from Charles. He draws on two distinct sounds, an effect driven and distortion-heavy tone (heard on tunes such as Tell me I Can’t, D&P and Bear Call) and a more percussive, traditional jazz tone (which appears on Warmth, Departure and Parallels). I must express a personal preference for the latter, which I feel contains so much more depth and weight, giving Carr’s melodic lines substance. Moreover, at times Carr’s distortion driven sound becomes jarring alongside the acoustic timbre of the rest of the band – particularly noticeable on D&P. Although, the problem is sometimes addressed by Carr’s original introduction of synths into the album’s sound world which, on tracks such as Evolutions, create a nice blend between the styles.


The album’s best moments come in Carr’s more relaxed, thoughtful compositions. The opening of Warmth features some really lovely ideas, as does the title track, and the closer, Parallels. Their gentle chord sequences lead you down a path, which Carr and McCaslin tread admirably, with a feeling of movement, rather than just cycling through a short idea over and over. These tunes also feature some lovely textural ideas, particularly Carr’s chordal melodies, often with McCaslin floating above. A mention should also be given to Hans Glawischnig on bass, who solos well whenever given an opportunity, such as an on the eighth track Waiting.

Overall, this is a sweet album, with some great moments. While I’m not always convinced by some of its harsher and louder tracks, the lighter side to Kenny Carr’s compositions are infectious, mysterious, and at their best really quite beautiful.
Max G.
Departure was released on Zoozazz Music on Nov. 1.

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