FAME Review: Kenny Lavender - Conscious Journey - Pts. 1 & 2
Kenny Lavender - Conscious Journey - Pts. 1 & 2

Conscious Journey - Pts. 1 & 2

Kenny Lavender

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

It takes a bold confident musician to issue a two-disc'er at any point in his or her career, let alone a twofer big band debut release, but, well, take a look at Kenny Lavender on the cover shot. He's a solid dude, imposing, seemingly poised opposite Eric Van Damme in a movie snapshot, ready to go to it and save the world from the latest insidious terrorist/spy evildoings. A cat like that grabs life by the throat and wrings every last drop out, right? Exactly. Confident? Oh yeah, and that's precisely what you get from the outset, Velocity leaping off the stand to whirl you around the dance floor, sax player Nathan Childers and Lavendar (trumpet) trading off solo sequences in fiery licks and boundless energies.

Intricately layered charts are a must in really good big band writing, and Lavender hits the levels: simple and decorous in ballad sections, auxiliary horns buttressing the emotions; clustered for emphasis in segue passages; and complex when things get jumping and jazz cerebral. More than once, the tonalities reminded me of Maynard Ferguson and Doc Severinson—and then of Chuck Mangione on the balladry (Kenny switches to flugelhorn)—'cause, as said, this guy's bold, holds back for no one, and knows exactly what he means to say, and then says it. The interplay throughout the album, a constantly morphing resonance field between splashy rave-up and restrained backpedaling, is intriguing, juxtaposing offsets that make sure no passage ever overstays its welcome, flanking the solos in rotating handshakes and hipsways.

No criticism here, but Kurt Bacher needs more solo time 'cause his clarinet really lays the top end into Lavender's compositions, and the choice of drummer Andy Watson was juuuuuust right: the guy knows not only when and what to hit but the way in which he weights things is perfection, reminiscent of Krupa. My favorite cut? Down in NOLA 'cause it's all over the place, a heady mixture of many styles, everything parading up and down the avenue, heralding some kind of holiday everyone's more than happy to exult in. Hell if I know what that celebration is, but, hell, count me in too, 'cause that's my danged way of kicking my heels up as well.

Save for one cut, all compositions are extended (see time notations below), one of 'em up to 13 minutes, giving plenty of room for everyone to get their licks in while developing themes and sidebars. We all know there's no such thing as too much big band music, so make room on your shelf for this way cool issuance to accompany your present pantheon. Whatever's already there, whether Benny Goodman or Gil Evans or Buselli-Wallerab, will be more than happy to move over and make room.

Track List:

Disc OneDisc two
  • Velocity (7:09)
  • As I Close my Eyes (8:04)
  • Beauty in a Kiss (8:40)
  • Down in NOLA (10:52)
  • 9th Ave. Swag (10:38)
  • Flow thorught Me (8:03)
  • Caravan (7:28) (Tizol)
  • I Could Write a Book (5:47) (Rodgers & Hart)
  • Happiness (10:18)
  • Clark's Bark (7:26)
  • Una Mas (13:00) (Dorham)
All songs written by Kenny Lavender except as noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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