Bruce Von Stiers
Kenny Shanker is a multi-faceted jazz artist. He is a vocalist, pianist and an award-winning composer. Shanker is also an excellent saxophonist.
Shanker's debut album, Steppin' Up, received a favorable review from All About Jazz. His subsequent albums were also critical successes.
Vortex is Shanker's latest recording. It features ten songs, seven of which are original compositions. Having a play time of just under an hour, the album was produced by Shanker and released on the Wise Cat Records label.
Vortex features Shanker on alto and soprano saxophones. He is joined by Daisuke Abe on guitar, Mike Eckroth on piano, Yoshi Waki on bass and Brian Fishler on drums. Bill Mobley plays trumpet on three of the songs.
The title track, Vortex, is up first on the album. It has an interesting mixture of piano, sax, guitar and drum music. It is one of those songs that you just sit back and listen to, trying to capture all of the nuances of the instruments. This is the first original composition on the album.
Lulu's Back In Town has been done by jazz greats such as Fats Waller, Art Tatum and Thelonious Monk. It was even used in an episode of Sesame Street. This Al Dubin, Harry Warren tune was well done on this album.
Winter Song is another original composition. It is a mellow piece that has some terrific piano in it.
Hunter begins with some strong bass then moves into a moderate paced sax mode.
Ramble provides a mild sax sound that kind of is a contradiction to what I understand the definition of the song's title. But then again, the sax does seem to ramble through the song at different points.
Nightfall is a slow and endearing sax based piece.
Another classic jazz standard on the album is The Duke. This Dave Brubeck tune gives each member of the group a chance to have a nice solo bit. Not only is the bass, guitar and piano well done, the drums and sax work are really good too.
Cinnamon is nice, light piece. It has some good piano that at times reminds me of Vince Guaraldi. The song also has decent guitar and sax solos.
Midnight Snack is a fast paced tune at times. There is a steady, fast paced bass sound as the backdrop for the guitar and sax for most of the song.
Autumn Leaves is the last song on the album. It began as an instrumental by Joseph Kosma, with French lyrics later added by Jacques Prevert and English lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Mellow sax, along with subtle guitar and bass make a decent instrumental rendition of the song on this album.
Vortex is an awesome collection of original compositions and terrific arrangement of a few jazz standards. The album shows why Shanker has been showered with critical praise for his music.
Vortex is now available at major music outlets and streaming services.
You can hear samples from Vortex on Kenny Shanker's web site, https://kennyshanker.com/
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© 2022 Bruce E Von Stiers