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It’s not often that a recording comes my way featuring a saxophonist who plays soprano, alto, tenor and baritone equally well. But such is the case with the 2020 self produced album Gratitude which introduced me to Kevin Goss and his marvelous playing on all, four saxes.
I’ve never met Kevin, who is Canadian and lives in Toronto, but we’ve become friends on FB and he was kind enough to send me a copy of the recording. You can download or purchase it by accessing this Bandcamp link.
The recording consists of eleven tracks that offer a wide variety of Jazz styles and Kevin annotates the background for each of them in the insert notes to the album which I have also included below.
Joining him for this fun romp through a variety of tribute pieces to Kevin’s Jazz heroes and other derived sources of inspiration are Brian O’Kane on trumpet and flugelhorn, Nathan Hiltz on guitar, David Restivo on piano, Jim Vivian on bass and drummer Ted Warren.
I was familiar with the work of David Restivo and Ted Warren in Rob McConnel’s Boss Brass Big Band and Tentette but all of the other musicians were new to me.
At the outset let me emphasize that THESE GUYS CAN PLAY.
The ensemble work is flawless, the individual solos just sparkle and Jim and Ted form a rhythm section that provides a superb “engine room” which propels and swings the music whatever the setting or style.
Soaring above it all is Kevin’s energy and enthusiasm: he’s obviously having a ball and it's infectious as everyone brings their best to this musical party.
Whatever your Jazz preference - Boogaloo, Bebop, Ballads, Contrafacts, Blues, Hip Hop, Sax-Organ-Guitar finger-busting lines, Jazz in ¾ time, Duets, Pianoless Quartet featuring bari and trumpet [complete with countermelodies!]and Latin Jazz - it’s all here.
Here’s what Kevin has to say about his project.
“As I approached the "big five-oh", I started doing some thinking about how much I have to be grateful for: a supportive family, meaningful friendships, and music. I wasn't supposed to make it to the "big oh-five", but I beat the odds and, in the years since, it is my family, friends, and music that have made my life better, along with a couple of goofy dogs.
Ted's Kick is a boogaloo blues with a bridge. I wrote it with baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber in mind. Ronnie seamlessly weaves jazz and soul in his playing, and I wanted to capture that. The title is my tribute to this album's drummer, Ted Warren, who vehemently dislikes the term "kick drum". "IT'S A BASS DRUM!!". Dave Restivo's Fender Rhodes and Nathan Hiltz's Benson-esque guitar transport you back to the 60s.
Birdshit (or Bird Droppings if I ever hope to get radio play) is a contrafact I wrote on Charlie "Bird" Parker's Confirmation. It's also a tribute to all the bird puns used in his song titles.
Mists of Fundy was my biggest challenge to write. I wasn't even sure if I liked it until I heard Dave. Jim, and Ted playing it in the studio. Then I knew it worked. It's a ballad, played on alto, and is a bit of a tribute to Phil Woods and to my home town of Saint John, New Brunswick, where you often saw a thick layer of mist rising from the Bay of Fundy.
Cayenne is a tribute to the father of modern baritone playing, Pepper Adams. I incorporated some of his improvised vocabulary into a contrafact based on "But Not For Me".
I've long enjoyed playing Sonny Rollins's "Airegin" so I decided to write a waltz with those changes for soprano sax and Brian O'Kane's beautiful Flugelhorn playing. "Airegin" is "Nigeria" spelled backwards , so I called this Adanac.
By George, based on "Sweet Georgia Brown,” was written after I drove to Montreal to hear Ronnie Cuber and Vanessa Rodrigues playing music from the George Benson "Cookbook" quartet. I went back to my hotel and wrote this song with guitar and B3 in mind.
Hipititus C is a blues with a hip hop drum feel. It's in C, thus the name. This is a tune I really enjoy playing on alto. The rhythm section is nothing short of amazing on this one.
Adams Park is the only tune I didn't write. I first heard baritone player Glenn Wilson on an album I picked up in San Francisco for a buck. I became an instant fan and we have become friends. He graciously allowed me to record his tribute to Park Adams III, aka Pepper. This is a duet between myself on baritone and Jim Vivian on bass. I wanted it to be musically intimate and approach it differently from how Glenn has performed it.
Jeruvian pays homage to the Gerry Mulligan pianoless quartets of the 1950s with Chet Baker and, later, Art Farmer. Nicknamed "Jeru" by Miles Davis, Mulligan's approach was the polar opposite of Adams. He described his 50's music as "pipe and slipper jazz". I wanted to capture that feeling with a quartet featuring Brian's flugelhorn and a bass / brushes trade-off between Jim and Ted.
The R.C. Cooler is a Latin tune written while I was in my car waiting to cross the US border. I had to keep singing it in my head until I could safely take out my phone and record myself singing it. It's based on one motif that I had heard Ronnie Cuber playing on "My Little Suede Shoes".
Hipititus C Reprise is a response to those who didn't like the ending of Hipititus C. You're welcome.”
It’s with heartfelt gratitude that I thank Kevin for making this music happen in my life.
Treats like this don’t come along often.
Don’t miss this one.