PERFORMER: Kenny Drew Jnr (pno); David Sanchez and Joshua Redman (tenor sax); George Mraz and Charnett Moffett (bass); Lewis Nash and Codaryl Moffett (drums)
CATALOGUE NO: 514 211 2
On an April night in New York this year, the Mingus big band assembles in Greenwich Village’s Time Café. Sue Mingus, wife of the late Charlie, still loves to hear his compositions. At the bar, a tall, handsome young man is surrounded by girls. A film star perhaps? Suddenly the film star leaves his admirers for the piano stool, just in time for the downbeat. He’s got no music. Can he be for real? As if in reply it’s immediately clear his playing is lifting the band. He solos. He’s rhythmically and harmonically daring. His fingering is so precise that every note rings out, crystal clear, through the crowded club. His solos are focused and inventive.
One man against 18 of New York’s finest and it’s no competition. The set ends and Kenny Drew Jnr returns to the girls. Who is this guy? How come he’s got no album out? Well, here it is. Refreshingly free from hype, it is as good a major label debut from a young musician as you’re likely to hear in a long while. One or two weaker tracks, for sure. But the excitement, the electricity and the creativity, albeit slightly diluted in the cold, impersonal recording studio, are there too. With Oscar Peterson sadly immobilised from a stroke, the virtuoso piano in jazz is in safe hands. Stuart Nicholson