Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jeff Kashiwa Let It Ride Native Language 2012

Jeff Kashiwa released Play to critical acclaim in 2007. Downbeat called it perhaps the best contemporary release for the year and now five years later Kashiwa is dropping Let It Ride on 08/21/12. Kashiwa's fifth recording for Native Language is arguably his best for reasons both old and new.

Having worked for and with bands such as The Rippingtons and The Sax Pack, Kashiwa comes from outside the more traditional cookie-cutter mold that a majority of similar players tend to both come and play from. Let It Ride is an exploration of a myriad of textures and influences that run the table from R&B, pop and the more straight ahead approach to perhaps Kashiwa taking command of the sound that is synonymous with his sonic wheelhouse which is soul-jazz and blues. Couple this musical versatility with Kashiwa's decade of diversity on the stage and his move into the jazz education field and you have perhaps the most well grounded contemporary sax player on the scene today. It is the movement between the disciplines of both performing with a variety of ensembles and his new found love for teaching that keep Kashiwa's vibrant signature sound front and center.

While keeping a schedule that would have worn down most musicians much earlier, Kashiwa had the good fortune and sonic sense to call in a few musical I.O.U's to and brought in an all star guest lineup including Rippington's founder Russ Freeman, pianist David Benoit and special guest guitarist from Fourplay Chuck Loeb to name but a few. Let It Ride has Kashiwa pushing the envelope harmonically with a freedom and all most live in the studio freedom not heard on any other recording since perhaps his critically acclaimed Play from five years ago. Consider this release kicked up several notches.

"Stomp" is one of the better tunes on the release. A slightly more exotic flavor creates the perfect platform for Kashiwa's expressive soprano and Chuck Loeb's crisp, angular six string work. Nothing predictable here. Kashiwa's playing is far more adventurous on this release as he works the bottom end of the alto register to paint from a brilliant sonic color palette on "The Name Game" which is an blues infused tropical textured piece with some stellar keyboard work turned in by Nicholas Cole. Another highlight would be the emotionally charged and slightly Steely Dan-esque groove laid down on "One Of These Days" but of course it certainly doesn't hurt when you have one of musics premier drummers in Ricky Lawson owning the pocket and setting the table for the band to indeed welcome you to the land of rhythm and groove. Kashiwa excels on this piece more so than any other bringing his own brand of flash fried soul to a party you just hate to see end. This funkalicious edge is continued with "Hot Tin Roof" but the key to the release is like any, ebb and flow as the cooler side of pillow is touched on "When Will I Know."

Jeff Kashiwa took on the role of producer here giving credence to the old adage if you want something done right then do it yourself. From high octane funk to that low rider cool, Kashiwa has never played better and his friends followed suite. Infectious energy and passion is contagious and has allowed what might otherwise "pass" as a really good contemporary release move into a real of greatness few artists can hit with this kind of pop and vitality.

Jeff Kashiwa is the type of saxophone player that again confirms why the best place for my tenor could be that of wall decoration on the local T.G.I Fridays. If this release is not the best contemporary release of the year then it has to be in the top 3! A virtually flawless recording with all participants hitting their marks!

Tracks: Let It Ride; Stomp; The Name Game; Up; One Of These Days; Hot Tin Roof; When Will I Know?; One More Day; Follow Your Heart; Sundance.

Personnel: Jeff Kashiwa: tenor sax, flute, soprano sax, keyboards, alto sax; Nicholas Cole: keyboards; Gerey Johnson: guitar; Melvin Davis: bass; Ricky Lawson: drums; Chuck Loeb: guitar; Dave Hooper: drums; Ronnie Gutierrez: percussion; Allen Hinds: guitar, nylon guitar, steel string acoustic guitar; Andre Berry: bass; Russ Freeman: guitar, classical guitar; Bill Heller: keyboards; Tom Schuman: organ, piano; David Benoit: piano; Rico Belled: bass;