Monday, August 13, 2012

Darren Klein Give Thanks 2012

The Declaration of Independence guarantees citizens of the United States the basic rights which are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Doesn't say a word about a record deal. If it did then Darren Klein should be at the front of the line.

They call it the record "business" for a reason. Units sold = paying the rent. The record business is brutal and the competition is fierce. Two years ago I would not have given this eclectic looking release a second glance. I now look for Independent artists to contact me to see what I can do in order to draw some attention to their work should I feel it warranted. Darren Klein is one of the two finest Independent guitarists I have heard in a two year period. Give Thanks with its eclectic cover art is a sextet so well put together that it is the equivalent of finding all the pieces of musical jigsaw puzzle and admiring the end result of a unique photograph or in this case a brilliant new voice with an individual sound that stands alone. Klein doesn't do a riff on John Abercrombie or Jim Hall but he opts to do a riff on himself and how his voice fits in modern jazz today.

Opening this delightfully organic release we have the title track "Give Thanks." Klein's playing is clean, precise and exhibiting a finesse perhaps not heard since early Kenny Burrell or Pat Martino. Musical frames of reference are inherently unfair and in this case are at best "close." Damian Erskine's soulful walking bass line and the subtle nuance of drummer Russ Kleiner set the table for a sonic feast. Akila Fields touch on the rhodes is reminiscent of Danny Grissett from the Tom Harrell Quartet. A tune that is painted with broad and brilliant sonic colors from a sextet that has a deceptively subtle sense of swing while working without a harmonic net but with a lyrical urgency that is at times infectious. "Twin" is the second track on what is essentially an EP by conventional standards. Opening with Noah Bernstein on soprano and a dream like electric piano sequence from Fields the keen sense of melody and synergy shown between the members of this ensemble is nothing short of amazing. Mary-Sue Tobin has a tone on tenor that some players search their entire career for, rich and full bodied. The success of the release is that Klein successfully combines the modern jazz sound with the improvisational skills of what the old school players were doing during the Blue Note days and then places his own indelible mark on the music and this is the sign of a true artist. Closing out the release is "Rapture of the Deep" a more expansive piece with Klein's angular articulation blazing a sonic trail that the ensemble seems to relish. A slight ambient quality with lush texture but the music stays in a minimalist realm with an organic spatial quality that works well with this stellar ensemble. 

I normally look at Independent artists in a different light much as I am as an Independent writer. An editor that I have a great deal of respect for once told me, "Water always finds its weight." I finally get it. Darren Klein is the epitome of the searching artist and Give Thanks is virtually flawless. A collection of originals that could stand up against any modern jazz guitarist today. Modern yet with a quirky retro sound. Old school becoming new cool. You gotta dig that!

See for yourself:

Tracks: Give Thanks; Twin; Paper Wings; Hearts and Minds; Rapture of the Deep.

Personnel: Darren Klein: guitar; Russ Kleiner: drums; Akila Fields: electric piano; Damian Erskine: electric bass; Noah Bernstein: alto & soprano sax; Mary-Sue Tobin: tenor sax & clarinet.

Cover Art: Aramazt Kalayjian