Kenny Carr, Departure

by Ferell Aubre

Guitarist Kenny Carr has enjoyed a varied career.  Carr attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. In his final year he got the call to audition for Ray Charles. Carr toured worldwide with Charles for 10 years and played lead guitar for Charles’ recordings Just Between Us and Live at Montreux. After Charles passing Carr has enjoyed a steady release of his own leader releases.  Now embarking on his sixth leader release, Carr steps forward with release that catapults his sound forward with Departure.

The album begins with the smartly developed “Intervals,” Carr quickly demonstrates that he is a musical and exciting composer, as well as a performer. “Intervals” melody is performed by Carr and McCaslin with strategic band hits that add excitement. The bridge finds Wollesen, Glawischnig and Carr laying down a quick waltz time feel as McCaslin’s robust saxophone takes the lead. McCaslin’s solo starts at a controlled percolation as he effortlessly spins out melodies. The chemistry between McCaslin and Carr is evident, the manner in which the two interact during McCaslin’s solo, with Carr’s energetic chordal figure contribution to McCaslin’s fiery solo statement is galvanized. Carr begins his solo with double stops that segues into bopish chromatic embellished melodies. The solo has shape and a strong sense of time and increasing excitement.

“Tell Me I Can’t” is a colorful demonstration of Carr’s fusion chops. Beginning with a rhythmically interesting funk groove figure that the melody is developed over, this tune has very deep pockets! Carr’s balanced activity with more flowing melodic statements through the form offers a dynamic listen. The background chords from Carr’s guitar synthesizer is subtle and supportive in both color and function. For Carr’s solo, he presents a warmly distorted guitar tone the still maintains clarity but delivers an aggressive tone. Carr develops multiple rhythmic motifs, building the energy with each phrase. McCaslin turns in an exceedingly expressive ride with lots of interesting sounds and upper register screams. The band is very connected, with each member performing beautifully. Carr takes another ride and digs in even harder with an impressive display of technique and musicality.

At times Carr is so skilled you forget the amount of technical prowess your ears are experiencing. His music offers a complexity that is so musical that with each listen new surprises unfold.  What sets Departure apart from so many albums out there that serve up a succession of hard blowing, is the subtleties.  Many times, young musicians miss this part of the soulful musicality.  I am sure 10 years on the bandstand with Charles instilled this in Carr’s bones.  He strides right alongside any guitarist in the upper echelon these days, but it is in the details of his rhythm that takes him to the next level.  Departure is a highly recommended listen.

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