Monday, March 12, 2012

Kerong Chok Good Company 2012

"A watched pot never boils..."

Singapore native Kerong Chok has slowly and methodically turned up his own artistic heat and nine years later we have one of the more engaging and musically passionate releases with a notable inspiration coming from the Larry Young's 1966 Blue Note masterpiece, Unity.

Make no mistake, Chok is doing his own thing his way. A by product of his own cultural influences, Chok puts his own spin on the Young influence for a release that is permeated with texture and a rich sonic color palette. It swings. Good Company is the perfect title as instead of taking the more self indulgent route, Chok has taken his time and has chosen a more working band feel or approach to his music and the payoff in chemistry alone is huge. There is a magical cohesion or synergy that drives this recording not to mention the more modern styling of Chok which brings the soulful sound of Young and other organ masters to a more accessible 21st century acceptance. Having reviewed Chok on another fabulous release where he plays piano and rhodes his prodigious talents on organ caught me totally off guard.

"Black Ice" is a seductively sizzling opener with Lucas Pino on tenor sax. A shifting bass line creates the sonic illusion of the hidden patches of ice that you don't seem to notice till disaster strikes. Michael Valeanu's clean single note guitar lines help drive the lyrical train along with Pino as Chok maintains a subtle swing while the band makes way for his minimalist approach to the solo. Less is more, fluid but with lyrical precision the tune evolves with a direct sense of musical purpose. "Samba Number 1" with Pino leading off with a breezy flute solo while Valeanu comps throughout the percussive groundwork laid by Jake Goldbas has Chok demonstrating unique versatility with shifting harmonics and an infectious rhythm backed up by this first call band. "Good Company" shifts tempo, mood and dynamics as a more contemporary introspection is explored with Pino's soprano work. "Rill Son" is as real as it gets for a blistering post bop burner showcasing Chok and that the future of jazz organ may well begin here.

An old school working band approached carefully mixed with a more contemporary twist finds Kerong Chok's debut release as one that will be talked about for years to come. As a prodigious instrumentalist and a prolific composer, Chok steps out of the shadows to take his rightful place with a virtually flawless release!

5 Stars

Tracks: Black Ice; Literacy; Sounds From The Back Alley; Samba Number 1; For Kenny; The First Day Of School; Good Company; Incessant; Free And Easy; Rill Son.

Personnel: Kerong Chok: hammond c3 organ; Lucas Pino: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Michael Valeanu; Jake Goldbas: drums and percussion; Matt Holman: trumpet (tracks 3 and 8 ).