The Sentinel Reviews Beautiful Things:
If you love Bop—and who doesn't—have I got a guy for you! Kenny Shanker is a brilliant saxophonist, pianist, vocalist, and composer. Now he releases Beautiful Things, a remarkable album of originals and Jazz standards. The quest for beauty runs like a thread through all of the 12 tracks.
Cool Mint kicks off the album with a circumspect work of fine Jazz with great alto sax from Shanker and excellent work by Mike Eckroth on piano.
Prestissimo is as quick and lively as the song title indicates. Think of the blistering Bebop of Parker and others and you can see where the influences were born. The Rodgers and Hart beauty It Never Entered My Mind is from the 1940 musical Higher and Higher. Eckroth’s languid and lovely piano opens the piece and Shanker takes on the memorable melody with gorgeous effect. Daisuke Abe offers a wonderful acoustic guitar interlude that is warm and captivating.
Mirth is another Shanker original and features Bill Mobley on trumpet in fine lockstep with Shanker. Shanker gives some raw alto punctuations as Yoshi Waki and Brian Fishler keep a tight pocket for the rhythms along with Eckroth’s percussive piano passes. Both guitar and piano give fascinating leads and the melody has a great hook.
Speaking of great melodies, Oscar Peterson’s L’Impossible follows and is beautifully arranged for the alto sax with bright passages from piano and guitar. Pay attention to Waki’s cool and understated bass lines.
Orange and Gray is another Shanker original and the transitions between the soloists are intriguing in an avant garde approach. This is followed by Vincent Youmans’ Without a Song with its andante bop. It includes some of Shanker’s sweetest spots on the album. And Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer’s I’m Old Fashioned is just beautiful under the exquisite touch of Shanker and the guys.
Romberg and Hammerstein’s Softly as in a Morning Sunrise gets an excellent Bop makeover with Shanker’s sax acting as the pathfinder. An all-time favorite, this song is finely recrafted and the rhythm section makes for attentive hearing at their up-tempo best.
Things slow down with Jimmy Van Heusen’s Like Someone in Love from the 1944 movie Belle of the Yukon. It is a cool duet between Shanker and bassist Yoshi Waki. Gorgeous.
In Walked Bud is the Thelonious Monk tribute to Bebop master Bud Powell. And if you think you hear snatches of Irving Berlin’s Blues Skies, you are quite correct, of course. As with anything resembling Powell and Monk, the piano gets a great solo as Waki again makes his bass presence heard and felt but Fishler’s drums get a special feature. All worth the price of admission.
The quest for beauty comes to its beautiful climax with Shanker’s own Beautiful Things. The title tells you everything you need to know. It is a sweet and lovely melody with tone and texture taking precedence over tempo and precision. It is an excellent way to end the quest and so satisfying. Shanker’s tonality is splendid.
Kenny Shanker’s Beautiful Things is something gorgeous. With echoes of the world and sound of Bebop, it is what we need to hear now. As ugliness seems to grow and encroach all about us, Shanker truly reminds us that we are surrounded by Beautiful Things.
Travis Rogers, Jr.
Jazz Weekly Reviews Beautiful Things:
Alto saxist Kenny Shanker does well with his team on this collection of swinging standards and originals. Trumpeter Bill Mobley sits in for a few tunes, blowing embers with the leader on “Orange and Gray” and the playful “Mirth”. Shanker’s tone is bel canto rich, gliding over the sublime “Cool Mint”, lyrical on “I’m Old Fashioned” and bouncing over the rhythm team on “Softly as In a Morning Sunrise” and festive “In Walked Bud”, with the classy and classical “Beautiful Things” giving Shanker a wondrous aria. This is why Selmers were created.
George W. Harris
Jazzwise Reviews Beautiful Things:
Alto saxophonist Shanker, a burning bebopper and fat-toned balladeer, shows an edginess in his sound too with solid support and ballsy soloing from the band.
Jazz2Love reviews Beautiful Things:
In the vane of a true bop artist, saxophonist Kenny Shanker explores his assets, the nimbleness of his raptures, the sharpness in his playing to accelerate or slow down the dialogue, and the clarity of his movements. The program on his new CD Beautiful Things features both his originals and covers of jazz classics, applying his instinct for layering voices and entangling sequences.
The torchlight countenance of "It Never Entered My Mind," penned by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, features Shanker's saxophone toots forming a weave of dreamy patterns layered in the creamy passages of Daisuke Abe's guitar and the smoldering embers of Mike Eckroth's piano keys. Brian Fishler's rustling drum strikes produce a steady base for "Mirth" as Shanker's sax soars and billows with wild abandonment, withdrawing when Bill Mobley's trumpet takes centerstage. Horns and guitar build into a harmonious entanglement.
"L'Impossible," a pensive piece by Oscar Peterson, is trussed in an enchanting soliloquy expressed by the fluctuating movements of Shanker's sax. His freestyle musings are bold and searing on his original contribution "Orange and Gray," whipping up a rapturous frenzy through "Prestissimo," another original by Shanker.
The spontaneity that Shanker exhibits in his playing shows command of his saxophone paired with instincts that can sketch enchanting soliloquies and searing patterns penned in freehand. Still budding as a modern jazz talent, Shanker promises his signature style and trademark has more growth to come.
Midwest Record reviews Beautiful Things:
Solid, classic feeling jazz that’ll get you in the right mood.
Audiophile Reviews Beautiful Things:
Award winning composer, saxophonist, pianist, and vocalist Kenny Shanker has released his latest work of traditional jazz, both original songs and covers of jazz standards. “Prestissimo” is high octane, free form sax that almost sounds totally improvised. Other tracks are cool jazz all the way and I really enjoyed how Shanker weaves the sax and trumpet together so fluidly. Between the bebop sound on several songs to the flowing luxury of a more traditional jazz sound, “Beautiful Things” is exactly that – beautiful.
Exclusive Magazine reviews Beautiful Things:
This quite stunning musical adventure opens on the melodic, finger-snapping trip of Cool Mint and the gently frenetic Prestissimo, backing those up with the ornate beauty of It Never Entered My Mind, the perfectly entitled Mirth, and then both the mid-tempo, toe-tapping vibe of Oscar Peterson’s L’Impossibleand the stout, yet flexible orchestrations of Orange and Gray.
Next up is the free-flowing majesty of Without a Song and the Johnny Mercer co-written hipsway magnificence of I’m Old Fashioned, the perky Oscar Hammerstein II co-written escapade Softly as in a Morning Sunrise, the album rounding out on the delicately layered wonderment of Like Someone in Love, their upbeat rendition of Thelonious Monk’s In Walked Bud, closing on the luscious tranquility of the title track, Beautiful Things.
Jazz & Blues Report reviews Beautiful Things:
The opening “Cool Mint” has the feel of a sixties Brill Building hit with a memorable melody. It is followed by the hard bop “Prestissimo” with a breakneck tempo that evokes “Giant Steps.” Taken at an almost frantic tempo, Shanker, trumpeter Mobley, and pianist Eckroth navigate the changes impressively. On Rogers & Hart’s “It Never Entered My Mind,” he exhibits a beguiling tone. It is followed by the bouncy “Mirth,” with a solo that suggests Sonny Fortune and other Coltrane-influenced alto saxophonists. Mobley adds some mid-range heat on his trumpet on this selection.
Eckroth opens the swinging interpretation of Oscar Peterson’s “L’impossible,” with Shanker exhibiting fluidity along with his melodic tone over the entire range of the alto sax. Abe’s Guitar chords help set the walking tempo for Shanker’s lyrical playing on “Without a Song.” A charming rendition of “I’m Old Fashioned,” where Abe takes solos crisply and cleanly. “Like Someone in Love,” an alluring duet with Waki on bass, is another choice track.
Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud” opens as a duet between Shanker and drummer Fishler. Eckroth and Waki join the performance halfway through. Shanker’s title composition closes the recording in a beautiful manner (pun intended). Kenny Shanker plays thoughtfully, displays a beautiful tone and fluid technique, and is backed by a splendid band on an outstanding recording.
Jazz & Blues Report, Issue 397, July/August 2021
Bman’s Blues Report reviews Beautiful Things:
Beautiful Things is a warm blend of cool bop and jazzy pop. Opening with the original composition, “Cool Mint”, Kenny Shanker is upfront on sax carrying the melody and blowing solid bebop riffs. Another original track, “Prestissimo,” is excellent with aggressive sax runs by Shanker. One of my favorite tracks is “Mirth,” with its searching sax lines. “Like Someone in Love” not only gives Shanker a great base to lay out some of his cooler solos on the release, but I really like the forward nature of Yoshi Waki's work on bass as well as his extended solo. Monk's “In Walked Bud” will have you stomping. Wrapping the release is a smooth composition and title track, “Beautiful Things.” Shanker has excellent tone, closing on a quiet note. Very solid release.
JP’s Music Blog Reviews Beautiful Things
The latest release from saxophonist Kenny Shanker titled "Beautiful Things" features a dozen new tracks, beginning with the swinging melody of "Cool Mint" and the up-tempo, energetic blast of "Prestissimo," before slowing down for the mellow jazz of Rodgers & Hart's "It Never Entered My Mind." The tempo picks back up with the back and forth of "Orange and Gray" with Mike Eckroth on piano and Kenny Shanker on sax, as the two waltz around your speakers in a dance of power and grace. Next, Kenny delivers the feel-good sounds of the classic "Without A Song.” The album finishes with the swift-moving melody of "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise" and the gentle, flowing sounds of "Beautiful Things."
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.
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!
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.
Read the full review here
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.