SOUND ADVICE: The Kevin McNeal Organ Project’s reaches great heights with 'Matter of Time’

 A former Upstate guitarist who now residing in Harlem, Kevin McNeal is a jazz player with formidable chops, a clever imagination and a way with harmonics. With “Matter of Time,” he stretches a bit, even allowing the focus to be shared with another instrument, the Hammond B3 organ from Noriko Kamo.

Along with Floyd King (saxophone) and Tom Baker (drums), McNeal starts this journey — a collection of eight of his own original compositions — with “Be Bach Later.” With a lovely round tone, McNeal takes the head and then elaborates with a tasty, inventive solo.

Soon Kamo offers her own point of view in an understated way until King juxtaposes that with a fiery excursion, all with Baker simmering underneath with perfectly placed stabs and accents.

Soon, McNeal hits his stride in the wide-open “Pathetique,” an optimistic outing, with a playful, melodically expressive solo.

The call-and-response banter of the lively “A Matter Of Time” makes it a highlight. And the timeless old-school vibe of “Take The Tunnel,” with a soaring solo by King, and a thoughtful one by McNeal, is one as well.

The breathtakingly beautiful “Zamar” brings it lovingly home.

Good things sometimes fly under the radar; sometimes they are great things. This has never been more the case than with Royal Hartigans's Blood Drum Spirit, a jazz masterpiece that has languished in obscurity since its 1993 recording to its eventual 2004 release.

Hartigan is jazz Renaissance man. An author, educator, and student/teacher of world music, he has incorporated the sounds, native instruments, and cultural nuances of West Africa and Southeast Asia into a two-disc collection where the emphasis is strongly toward jazz rather than the world music that subtly influences it. Like Hartigan has found that elusive ground that emphasizes the pure innovative nature of jazz without excluding the unique attributes of the cultures Hartigan has closely studied and been influenced by. Some time back, If Blood Drum Spirit has a centerpiece, it is "Eve," a 28-plus minute epic composed of solo, duo, trio, and quartet formats that easily flow into and out of each phase. Suffice to say, "Eve" is worth the price of admission. In many ways it represents the democratic nature of Hartigan's collective style and world philosophy.

Guitarist Kevin McNeal's deceptively simple chords and David Bindman's opening saxophone sets a bluesy pace that carries throughout. By the time Wes Brown's bass and Hartigan's kit transition into a rhythmic African extended duo, a hypnotic effect has established itself and it is not easily broken. Hartigan's percussion work is as musical, or more so than most of the percussion greats who have gone before him. His versatility could be imagined as a solo percussion work, much the way the 

To single out tracks is counter-productive here; this is a work of symphonic structure. Hartigan's quartet exerts equal effort and finesses across the spectrum of tunes here and selectivity would be nitpicking as the work that builds and develops across the entire program. Each band member is given more than ample opportunity to solo and in every case they are stellar performances. Why Royal Hartigan is unfamiliar to many jazz fans is a subject for another debate. What is clear is that Blood Drum Spirit is a collection that will endure for many years to come.


Track Listing: Blood Drum Spirit; Wadsworth Falls; Dagomba; Pilipinas Suite; Solog; Pilipinas; Solog; Caravan; Tala Vadyam; Apartheid Usa Suite; Adzohu; Juba Handclaps; Rodney King Drums; Double Trouble; Adzohu Rodney King Drums; Double Trouble; Navajo Blood/Pontoosuc Waters/Springside Lands; Tie Me Sufre (Teah May Sufray); Papago-Saguaro Song; Eve (Eh Vay).

Personnel: David Bindman: woodwinds; Kevin McNeal: guitar; Wes Brown: bass; Royal Hartigan: drums, cymbals, and rattles.

Review of Kevin McNeal's Soliloquy Album

When listening to Kevin McNeal's Soliloquy Album it can take a while to realize it's just one guitar. There is so much movement, melody, and motion that you don't miss hearing other instruments.

But that's just part of the simple beauty of this world-class guitarist's CD...Soliloquy sounds like a master musician just playing in his living room, with a few candles lit, purely for the love of it. Fortunately, with the release of this exquisite CD the whole world can share this candid, intimate moment.

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Upcoming Performances

  • 10/22/2019
    Arthurs Tavern - New York, New York
     
  • 10/29/2019
    Arthurs Tavern - New York, New York