1. WEDNESDAY CAME TO A CROSSROADS * (Keith Karns)
aaron hedenstrom, keith karns, brian claxton
2. SOME CHARACTERS AND INCIDENTS ARE FICTITIOUS (Keith Karns)
aaron hedenstrom, nick syman
3. INTERLUDE I
4. SALTWATER ROCKET (Keith Karns)
keith karns, brian handeland
5. INTERLUDE II
6. THOUGHT AND MEMORY (Keith Karns)
7. GUNSLINGING BIRD (Charles Mingus, arr. Keith Karns)
jon Vallejo, nick syman, brian claxton
8. INTERLUDE III
9. BETTER GET HIT IN YOUR SOUL! (Charles Mingus, arr. Keith Karns)
jim geddes, steve hobert, jeff walk, nick syman, aaron hedenstrom, brian claxton
Steve Hobert, Piano
Ken Ge, Bass
Brian Claxton, Drums
Courtney Karns, Vocals *
Composer/Arranger, Keith Karns
Producer, Keith Karns
Co-Producer and Recording Engineer, Carl Schroeder
Mixed and Mastered by John Scherf
Album Design by Daniel Walden
Photography by Steve Kriesel
Recorded at Gantner Studios, May 16th 2011.
Eau Claire, WI
Special thanks to Robert Baca, and Torpedo Bags and Bach Trumpets.
Thought and Memory
Review By Jazz Critic and Scholar, Scott Yanow
Born in Alaska, trumpeter-arranger-composer Keith Karns studied in the Midwest and currently teaches at the University of North Texas. Thought And Memory, the recording debut of his big band, is a very impressive start.
Karns’ 17-piece big band has conventional instrumentation except for the occasional use of Courtney Karns’ voice in the ensemble, particularly on “Wednesday Came To A Crossroads.” However the music, all originals by Keith Karns except for his fresh reworkings of two Charles Mingus’ pieces, is far from conventional. The arrangements are often quite dense but also are rhythmic, the soloists are inventive while being a logical extension of the ensemble, and the orchestra definitely has a spirit and personality of its own.
Karns considers himself a student of the music of Stan Kenton, Jim McNeely, and Maria Schneider, and their influences can be felt in spots, but his conception of big band jazz is fresh and very much his own. The opening “Wednesday Came To A Crossroads" has a catchy 7/4 rhythm throughout the piece. The ensemble builds up and yields high-powered solos by tenor-saxophonist Aaron Hedenstrom and Karns, whose passionate modernism on this number sometimes recalls Woody Shaw.
“Some Characters And Incidents Are Fictitious” has the assertive and conversation-like ensemble interacting with drummer Brian Claxton’s breaks, before Hedenstrom and trombonist Nick Syman create solos that eventually become part of the ensemble.
There are three brief “interludes” that feature unaccompanied solos. “Interlude I.” has a spot for bassist Ken Ge that leads logically into “Salt Water Rocket,” a dramatic piece in which the bass and drums patterns energize the band. Keith Karns and tenor-saxophonist Brian Handeland are in top form during their solos. “Interlude II.” has a thoughtful section for pianist Steve Hobert that segues logically into the moody ballad “Thought And Memory.” The raging tenor of Aaron Hedenstrom climaxes the piece before Hobert’s piano brings the performance to a close somewhere where it began.
Karns brings back the spirit of Charles Mingus without copying the great bassist-composer. His reworking of “Gunslinging Bird” is quite colorful and almost sounds like it could have been used in a Western. The minor blues has heated solos by baritonist Jon Vallejo and trombonist Nick Syman. Karns takes “Interlude III” as his feature, hinting at several other songs while displaying his warm tone. The concluding “Better Get Hit In Your Soul,” one of Mingus’ finest works, retains its infectious and joyful spirit. The solos by altoist Jim Geddes (which builds up to an explosive level), pianist Hobert, trumpeter Jeff Walk (whose playing is quite wild), trombonist Syman, tenorman Hedenstrom and drummer Brian Claxton are each eventually swallowed up by the rollicking ensemble.
Thought And Memory is easily recommended to fans of modern post bop jazz orchestras.
Scott Yanow, author of ten books including Trumpet Kings, Swing, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76