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Coalescence - Coalescence 2

Nolan Debuke, The Jazz Word


There is always something special when a group of musicians who happen to be good friends also form collaborative projects in music. Such is the case with the group Coalescence, which also bears the meaning in name, of union, or meld and or simply amalgamation.  This is the foundation of Coalescence, a five-member ensemble, each award-winning musicians that have been playing together in various formations for more than two decades. Their debut release, self-titled, released in 2012. Now in 2018, Coalescence 2 offers a deeper collaboration among its members. From the artwork to the compositions to the mixing and mastering and even the song order, the approach is cooperative and democratic. The ensemble features: Kenny Shanker: saxophones; Mike Eckroth: piano; Daisuke Abe: guitar; Yoshi Waki: bass; and Brian Fishler: drums.  Each track is written by one of the band members, once again cementing the collective spirit.


Coalescence 2 is the furtherance of wonderfully written pieces that offer a varied stylistic approach, the best of what each member brings to the table. That is what makes Coalescence 2 even more compelling, the sensibilities of each player shine through on the writing and playing.  From introspective ballads to colorfully complex bebop melodies to authoritative grooves, the album ticks all the boxes and shimmers with brilliance and strong musicality. A highly recommended listen.


Read the full review here

Coalescence - Coalescence 2

Steph Cosme, Staccatofy


From tender ballads to searing bop sensibilities each song on Coalescence 2 is a shimmering example of articulate playing and deeply felt comradery, all in service of sheer exploration and improvisation of well-crafted compositions.


The groups name is aptly given. The group coalesces as a strong unit, with nimble saxophone work by Shanker, his tone is focused and penetrates the group sound with authority. Bassist Waki and drummer Fishler flush out the tunes with texturally complex rhythms when needed and heartfelt tenderness when the tunes call for it. Abe’s single lines are inspired, his tone and attack are darkly hued and spot on. Pianist Eckroth arpeggiates with lightning speed, creating complimented comping and meaningful solos throughout the album. Though Coalescence is comprised of different compositions by each member, the overall binding ingredient is the clear and respectful chemistry that each player lends to the tunes. Congealed and united, Coalescense 2 is a tour de force. That’s the short of it!


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Coalescence - Coalescence 2

Jeannine Reid, All About Jazz


Coalescence is a suitably titled ensemble from New York City, its namesake rings true. Each member is a seasoned player in his own right, playing in various ensembles, but together they congeal and offer a coalesced sound.


The band has a very relaxed and interactive energy about their playing. Each player is exceptionally talented, but as a whole, they really shine. Shanker especially is an exciting player, his lines bringing together the heritage and modern musical influence in a way that is stimulating and gratifying to hear. Eckroth has a wonderful feel and touch that is melodic and building.
What Coalescence brings to the table is a chemistry of friends which relies on a given language that translates into adroit performances. That same trust is represented in their compositions, perfectly tailored to the ensemble's stylistic approach. Their songcraft is buoyant and filled with depth, which makes for an engaging listen. This recipe works, and the result is piquant and robust on many levels on Coalescence 2.  

Coalescence - Coalescence 2

Stamish Malcuss, Jazz Sensibilities


Coalescence brings forth their second offering, Coalescence 2 featuring compositions by five close friends and colleagues who share a like-minded vision. 


Shanker is a an amazingly lyrical saxophonist. He plays with energy, but never blurs the line between sophisticated pattern at the expense of melodic weight. Abe’s guitar tone is warm and round as he snakes through the changes. 


This band is a well oiled machine and anything they play is always deep with emotion and substance.


One might have the tendency to think too many cooks in the kitchen might make for a disjunctive or too broadly-based album.  Not so, Coalescence is a band aptly named, it is the congealing and coalescence of these akin musicians that makes the recipe such a delightful ambrosia.


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Coalescence - Coalescence 2

Elberton Cisnero, Five Finger Review


What is so magical about Coalescence 2, is the continued comradery of the group.  Truly a collaborative whole, with each piece fitting tightly together for a woven sound of tapestry that resonates with brilliance.  Each player’s musical strengths are highlighted, and the varied styles of the songs add to the sonic landscape of an overall highly musical outcome.  Total sum of the parts; great playing, superb compositions and solid chemistry all around.  A triumph for this longstanding collaboration.


"Lynx" starts the record with an up-tempo waltz that is an outstanding vehicle for this power group to explore through improvisation. The quintet is versed in the modern language of jazz, while still holding true to the roots of the tradition. Shanker takes a driving solo that is inspired, his lines are musical and his rhythm is excellent. Eckroth follows Shanker in both energy and musical purpose. Abe’s guitar sound is warm and acoustic in nature; his lines are fluid and musical. The cross-current rhythms of Fishler is wonderful throughout the solos. This band is so fun to listen to and "Lynx" is a fun start to an excellent set of music.


It is said that one can really hear the abilities of a musician when they are playing a ballad, and that rings true here on the track "Galileo’s Dialogue." With Shanker playing the beautiful melody with quick fills by Eckroth in the spaces. Shanker’s improvisations are stunning displays of musicianship. Even in the most complex phrases, his time and direction of melodic flow is absolutely clear. The interaction between Shanker, Eckroth and Fishler is conversational and enthralling. Shanker is a player that has it all: great time feel, strong melodic direction and the ability to make each phrase build to an exciting shape that is meaningful.


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Coalescence - Coalescence 2

Debbie Burke 


A new CD born from collaboration and camaraderie has just been released by five stellar New York City musicians, including Kenny Shanker on saxophones; Mike Eckroth on piano; Daisuke Abe on guitar; Yoshi Waki on bass and Brian Fishler on drums.


"Coalescence 2" does sweet and light ("Downhill"), high-stepping funk ("Whatever, That Was"), melodies that twist intervals into delicious pretzels (with a bitchin’ bass) in the song "Mars"; and fascinating, contrasting textures in "Galileo’s Dialogue." Showcasing the amazing chops of these musicians, "Coalescence 2" is also a trip worth taking into the minds of five awesome composers.


Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour

Eric W. Saeger, The Hippo

"Lots of buzz surrounds this California-born jazz saxophonist. This, his third album as a leader, displays a rare gift for interpreting bop with such depth it´s like getting fitted for a hearing aid. You could hear a pin drop between his phrases, which often finish off with a casual trilling that´s as warm as the smooth compositions he´s put together with this quintet, which also features the well-rounded talents of pianist Mike Eckroth and guitarist Daisuke Abe, both of whom receive enough solo spaces so as to not sway the focus from Shanker´s sax. The signature move within these tunes is a straightforward, confident march of quarter-notes of various modalities. Amazingly clear voice here. A+ — Eric W. Saeger"

Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour
Jazz Weekly

"Kenny Shanker has a rich and full sound on his alto sax as he brings some vintage hard bop to the table with some originals. Teamed with Mike Eckroth/p, Daisuke Abe/g, Yoshi Waki/b and Brian Fishler/dr, he drives with an upbeat "Kottinger Park" gets bluesy with Eckroth´s striding ivories on "Saturday, 2 am" and bops with hip delight to Waki´s pulsating bass on "Satin Ribbons." His soprano sax glides with an easy cadence on "Cascading Lights" and snaps to Fishler´s high hat on the crisp "Lyra." His tone is warm and lyrical, able to milk a passage during ""Spring Flowers" and the moody "Cake Batter." Impressive foray!"

Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour

Woodrow Wilkins, The Jazz Writer

"It’s straight-ahead jazz, but with enough melodic influences to work for the masses who tend to shy away from things that aren’t catchy.

Shanker plays the alto on the opener, "Kottinger Park." It’s a high-energy, fun romp. The leader plays with passion, exploring the range of his instrument, with powerful cohesion among his accompanists. 

Then there’s the aptly titled "Bobblehead." The pace, the fun, the joy this song inspires will likely have many a listener bobbing her head. Finger snapping and toe tapping follow suit. Some might want to get up and dance. It’s just an all-around feelgood song.

Shanker resides in New York City."

Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour

Phil Freeman, Stereogum

"Alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker is joined by his longtime live band: pianist Mike Eckroth, guitarist Daisuke Abe, bassist Yoshi Waki, and drummer Brian Fishler, most of whom played on both of his previous releases. Shanker writes all the tunes, which are melodic and swinging. This is a solid release by a group of young players finding their voices together.'

Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour

Chris Spector, Midwest Record

"All the hip insider cats know who this sax man is and it´s time you found out as well. Playing a mixture of straight ahead bop, he knows how to blow up a storm and really give your ears a work out with his zeal. A hard hitting cat that knows how to layout and lay back as well, he gives out that tasty kind of stuff that keeps you coming back for more. Well done."

Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour

Bob Bernotas, Just Jazz

"Alto and soprano saxophonist Kenny Shanker applies his bright tone, solid chops, and rich imagination to a set of one dozen original tunes. Shanker has selected an exceptional and supportive group of players to join him in this diverse showcase: pianist Mike Eckroth, guitarist Daisuke Abe, bassist Yoshi Waki, and drummer Brian Fisher. His is a strong voice that definitely deserves to be heard."

Josh Levinson - Morning Joy
Debbie Burke

"From the jump, "Morning Joy" swings hard and bright, the title track of a new CD from the Josh Levinson Septet.

No crowded studio or stage here; seven instrumentalists but they blend like a summer drink, with lots of space and air for everybody. The ensemble is led by trumpet player Josh Levinson, a guy who proves he can write a titanium hook.

The big-band sound swells and pulls back on "Potential," a track that’s hip, bouncy and has a stirring piano solo. "Celebration" feels like one; lots of instrumental unity and echoism, with drums that keep it swift and light and a welcome sprinkling of vocalese for emphasis. They enter into bebop territory with "C Sharpe Was Here," and get down deep and somber in the stunning "Prayer for Orlando."

Josh Levinson’s latest CD is full of feel-great, memorable melodies, providing a joy that’s good for any time of the day or night or any season of life."

Josh Levinson - Morning Joy

Bob Bernotas, Just Jazz


This septet session from trumpeter-composer Josh Levinson is real thing, squared, hard bop for today and tomorrow, deeply rooted in that venerable jazz tradition, while looking forward with vision and clarity. Levinson has richly orchestrated a dozen of his originals for a tight four-horn frontline, abundantly laced with surprises that will keep listeners involved and delighted.