Peter Kenagy (tp), Jason Hunter (ts), Jeremy Udden (as), Adam Larrabee (g), Rick McLaughlin (b), Jorge Perez-Albela (d)
Bar code: 8427328422079
Peter Kenagy lives in Boston where he plays and teaches music. He has been a part of many projects over the years; Han Indigo's Invention Group, Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra, Happy Feet Dance Orchestra, Darren Siman Superband, Hip Pocket Orchestra, In the House, Joh Camarda's Jama Jigi. This debut CD features a sextet made up of extremely talented individuals playing with unique voices. It is jazz with classic feel, but an alive, up-to-date sound.
"Peter Kenagy is a young trumpeter and composer, born in Seattle and based in Boston, who already has a lot to say on his first album. His original compositions explore areas that most jazz musicians don't seem drawn to. His tunes, like the relaxed Nile, are spacious, letting in air and light. He also looks at a couple of vintage standards, cleverly recasting them.
Dog Story is one of the most satisfying performances here. Its theme is hip, the kind that pleasantly nestles in your ear. Its structure and open form somewhat recall Ornette Coleman, although the tempo change in the middle is pure Kenagy, enabling him to sandwich his free trumpet musings between hard-swinging saxophone solos. Then there's AYG..., a recasting of After You've Gone into a meandering, stuttering bolero. Whisps is actually Whispering, another classic standard. With those shifting accents on the head and solid, swinging solos, Whisps could be a Groovin' High for the 21st Century.
Of course, Little Machines is a lot more than just a series of unusually clever compositions and arrangements. It's also the thoughtful improvising by the horns. Kenagy seems less interested in bravura displays of chops than most younger players. He likes to play melodies, although always imbued with swing and considerable harmonic daring. He reminds me of both Tom Harrell and Don Cherry.
At times alto saxophonist Jeremy Udden sounds like he wants to play Ornette Coleman to Kenagy's Cherry. Hear, for example, his tonal manipulations on Nile or his jabbing lines on Dog Story. Tenor saxophonist Jason Hunter is solid, with a clean, centered tone. While guitarist Adam Larrabee only solos once, his reverb-drenched comps are essential to this band's spacious sound. And finally, the excellent rhythm section adroitly negotiates everything its leader writes, giving this challenging music an added air of delight and accessibility."
- Marc Meyers, All About Jazz, July 2005
"The moniker of the Fresh Sound New Talent label couldnt be better chosen. With an unerring instinct for identifying emergent talent with greater potential, the label has provided the first forum for now-established artists like pianist Brad Mehldau, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and piano trio The Bad Plus. While it may be too soon to be definitively certain, all indications are that trumpeter Peter Kenagy, with his début release Little Machines , possesses all the raw materials for greater success: fine playing, strong compositional skills and, most importantly, a concept that lends his recording a larger narrative arc, rather than being merely a collection of discrete, well-written pieces.
Kenagys approach has some clear precedents, not least in the more accessible music of Dave Douglas. Not that Kenagys writing lacks depth, but there are no sharp edges or jarring dissonances, even while the harmonies feel both modern and rooted in traditions like Miles mid-60s work. Dog Story" with its medium tempo swagger, possesses the same kind of freedom-with-form of some of Miles second quintets best work. The piece breaks down into a free exchange between Kenagy, bassist Rick McLaughlin, and drummer Jorge Perez-Albela, much in the same way that Miles would deconstruct his quintet into smaller units. AYG‿ may have changes that recall a moody 50s blues ballad, but the Bolero-like rhythm lends it a more unusual complexion.
But while Kenagys music has identifiable roots, texturally it has a sound all its own, largely due to the atmospheric accompaniment of guitarist Adam Larrabee. Larrabee uses a volume pedal, chorus, occasional delay, and a spare style to create a more airy and spacious backdrop that is less about rhythm and more about colour, combining the ethereal nature of Bill Frisell's work with the more direct harmonic approach of John Scofield. But Larrabees touch is lighter, at times seeming to almost breathe on the strings rather than pluck them. Combined with Kenagys generally soft disposition, the result is a tendency that, even when things get a little diffuse, remains gentle and appealing. Even when things become considerably freer, as they do on the title track and, in particular during tenor saxophonist Jason Hunters searching solo, theres a feeling of grace and delicacy that keeps things light and minimal without detracting from the substance of the material.
Kenagy the soloist, along with Larrabee, Hunter, and alto saxophonist Jeremy Udden, clearly believe in substance over style. While never in question, technique is secondary to developing solos that take small motifs and develop them into longer-form explorations. Larrabees extended solo on the light-yet-uptempo walk of Whisps" for example, etches out specific melodic devices on which he proceeds to further elaborate. Kenagys solo is Miles-like in its lack of vibrato and generous use of space and long tones, peppered with cleanly-executed linking phrases.
An auspicious début that is somehow bold in a restrained fashion, Little Machines signifies the arrival of a strong new voice with an ensemble clearly matched to his elegant yet adventurous approach."
- John Kelman, All About Jazz, February 2005