To start, I am a huge Kenny Shanker fan. Shanker is one of the finest alto players and also dabbles with keys, voice and a spot on piano solo on "I Wanna Go."
Toss keyboardist, vocalist and trumpet playing composer Jon Hanser along with Brian Fishler on drums, percussion and vocals and one of the most engaging trios to hit the scene in some time begins to take shape. What I love most about this band is that they are a critics worst nightmare as attempting to tag their music with one arbitrary label is next to impossible and that my friends is a beautiful thing.
So the hook? the Verge is an eclectic fusion of the past, present and future without becoming bogged down in any one period. Improvisational pop? World jazz? It is the spontaneous performances and spot on song selection that make this jazz power trio a force to be reckoned with. Credibility? Bassist and vocalist extraordinaire Richard Bona makes an appearance on "Above and Beyond" so case closed. For a trio to take on pop covers can be for some bands the musical equivalent of tap dancing in a mine field. You know disaster is going to strike, not "if" but "when." The amazing aspect of the Verge is that with a lyrical driven focus and a keen melodic base they seem to effortlessly by pass any and all pit falls lesser talent would find all most immediately.
Tunes? The Latin infused Miles Davis classic "Joshua" add a vibrant swing and sets the table for what is to come. A release that covers Soundgarden's "Black Holed Sun" for the second time this year but with an intro of shifting meter and dynamics fills the bill nicely. Vocally, inventive as the band kicks in with a percussive flair taking a dark original and making a deceptively subtle all most dance tune. Shanker blows it out on saxophone, Hanser nails it on keys and drummer Brian Fishler owns the pocket. "Above and Beyond" features the great Richard Bona whose presence is simply another layer of sonic flavor. Shanker again proves his worth as one of the most talented saxophonists while Bona takes his lyrical skills to the next level. "Ants Marching" is harmonically engaging cover of the Dave Matthews tune, an articulated pop of contemporary roots without losing the root of the jazz sensibilities.
The Verge is a trio with incredible cross over potential. Everything is on point and when necessary the release swings as hard as anything you will hear. Vocals are spot on, covers are reharmed without losing the original melody completely. Hanser's work on the arrangements is phenomenal along with one of his original compositions entitled "Ariel" which remembers Sylvia Plath and reaches out to the emotionally downtrodden.
There have been similar releases hit the street with a some what similar concept, style and presentation. the Verge is the first one to get it right!
Tracks: 3; Black Hole Sun; I Wanna Go; Ariel; Dead of Night; Above and Beyond; It's Over; Break Your Heart; Send Her To Me; Joshua; Back to the Beginning; Ants Marching.
Personnel: Jon Hanser: keys, voice, trumpet, compositions; Kenny Shanker: saxophone, keys, voice (piano solo 3); Brian Fishler: drums, percussion, voices.
Special Guests: Richard Bona; bass (6); Andrea Valentini: drums (5); Danny Conga: percussion.