Who the hell is Kevin Cline? Maybe one of the best musicians you never heard of...
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
Kevin Cline is a musical enigma...Cline keeps a low profile and likes it that way. Equally adept on piano and trombone, Make Up Your Mind is a wonderful introduction to a musician's musician. Cline is not a newbie, he has just been busy playing with people like Aretha Franklin and Bruce Hornsby and it may be this subtle pop styling that makes his improvisational work so interesting and accessible. Most debut releases are phoned in, give the people some standards and maybe a well arranged pop cover as an introduction and then point to the next release. Not here, Cline treats us to an inside glimpse at his most prolific of compositional skills and tosses us a well deserved bone with the Rogers and Hart Classic "My Funny Valentine."
The great trumpet master Bobby Shew makes a stellar appearance on both trumpet and flugelhorn. Both meter, keys, and dynamic seem to be in a constant state of flux which produces a deep rich texture that moves well past the predictable. Analyzing original compositions on a debut release is a bit tedious as the average passage listener has no frame of reference from where to go. Cline's harmonic movement is "Evans-like" while remaining this amazing contemporary accessibility but not losing that improvisational base of discovery.
I have to admit the only criticism might be the background vocals and only because the music is so good they almost become distracting but I don't go hypercritical. Kevin Cline has mad skills whether behind a keyboard or adding his trombone skills to the mix. Sort of a more straight ahead Brian Culbertson, this is an incredibly well put together debut release.