Matt King "Kaleidoscope"

Matt King

CD review by Roger-Z (04/19/13)

How do you judge the worth of a jazz record? By the strength of the grooves, melodies, or improvisations? By it's accessibility -- or inaccessibility? According to my conversation with Matt King, improvisation reigns supreme. Funnily enough, I studied guitar with jazz artist, Joe Monk, on Long Island. He taught me to play standards by voicing the melody in chord inversions. But I found the changes too complex to improvise over. According to King, just like me, jazz artists in the Sixties wanted to free themselves of "previous harmonic constraints." Instead of soloing over the complete changes, they would vamp on only a subset of the chords. I thirsted to solo on simple progressions like "Sunshine of Your Love." Little did I know that Clapton didn't improvise at all on that track but rather lifted his solo directly from the melody of the Fifties classic, "Blue Moon." That harks back to something else King mentioned. Always try to make the song accessible.

Matt King provides the detailed genesis of each composition (ten original, two covers) in the liner notes. And like me, he can barely read them because he couldn't afford a large font! Players include Matt King (keys), Chris Potter (sax), Rufus Reid (bass), Anton Denner (sax, bassoon, flute), Pete MacDonald(drums, percussion), Doug Weiss (bass), and Rick Langmaack (guitar).

The preponderance of the tunes reach back to jazz styles of the late Fifties and early Sixties. Thelonious Monk looms large in King's pantheon of heroes. You can clearly hear Monk's influence on "Meanwhile Back at the Ranch," "Pick Up Shticks," and "Sphere." "Bells for Bills" serves an ode to the "lush, lyricism" of Bill Evans. The funky "Sidekick" harks back to Ramsey Lewis and Cannonball Adderly grooves. The title track displays roots in ECM and Weather Report. The re-make of "Don't Blame Me" sounds like Stan Getz in his Latin phase. The piano ballad, "All the Way," breathes peace as the other cover. "The Silk Road" dishes modal/raga improvisations. "Verge" sounds inspired by Wayne Shorter. "Gremlins" works out as slightly dissonant, free jazz. "Sleep Little Anthony" was created as an attempt to get King's baby son to fall asleep! Lovely flute.

The Kaleidoscope CD stands as Matt King's compositional primer. The heads grab the listener and the superb playing, improvisation, and production tighten that grip. Tasty solos abound. King takes the best from mid-period jazz and mixes it with a sexy, "Quiet Storm" mentality. This music works both as foreground and background. Go ahead, put it on and pull your honey close!

2013 Roger-Z