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"First convened in 2014, Kind Folk is the cooperative outlet for leader-type musicians in John Raymond (trumpet), Alex LoRe (sax), Noam Wiesenberg (bass) and Colin Stranahan (drums). Their 2018 debut Why Not is an album noted by its heady subtleties and group affinity made more impactful by the lack of chordal instruments.
Since then, the project seemed headed toward long-term hiatus but luckily, the four found their way back together as they emerged from the darkest days of virus-induced lockdown. Not long afterwards, their sophomore record Head Towards the Center was made, and Kind Folk hadn’t skipped a beat. Head Towards the Center, much like its predecessor, manages to leave big impressions with small gestures.
“Power Fall” is posited upon a two-note bass riff which Wiesenberg delivers so confidently, Stranahan is able to loosen up his pulse. But but really stands out is how the unit plays so spatially aware, making this feel rendered by a duo rather than a quartet. LoRe and Raymond clearly know that the bass and drums are already doing a lot of work, relieving them of the need to blow hot and instead render their chord progressions with a relaxed demeanor.
On “Mantrois,” the classical refinement is made more so by Wiesenberg’s sawing and harmonizing along with the horns. Wiesenberg starts out in the lead for “Sweet Spot,” followed by turns from LoRe and Raymond and all three play with a just-right tonality that befits the hushed nature of the song.
“Around, Forever” (video above) continues in that formalized mode, except for Wiesenberg’s active bass. His lines turn into backing for LoRe’s circumspect phrasing. “Head Towards The Center” starts off quietly enough but gathers momentum as it progresses, with Stranahan being the main instigator of the tension building.
Kind Folk’s chose only two covers but both are rather revealing about the band. The quietly poignant vulnerability of Elliott Smith is right up this quartet’s alley, and they give “Between The Bars” the nuanced sentiment that the composer probably intended. At the same time, they are plenty capable of handling straight-up hard boppers like Kurt Rosenwinkel’s “Mr. Hope,” putting their own unique stamp on it with the economy by which they carry out the melody; an artful exercise in harmonic efficiency.
The two group improvisations uncovers even more about the band, brief as they are. “Where Am I?” is as graceful as a meticulously arranged piece and “Distant Signal” springs organically from Wiesenberg’s one-note bass riff.
When great talents get together, egos can sometimes get in the way. There are no egos at all involved with Kind Folk, just a cooperative spirit that makes Head Towards the Center truly better than the sum of its parts."
—S. Victor Aaron (May 9, 2022)