Kenny Werner assembles a new band, borne out of his desire to extend his reach and play alongside path-finding instrumentalists. Guitarist Lionel Loueke and altoist Miguel Zenon are two such individuals. Once coupled with drummer Ferenc Nemeth and Danish saxophonist Benjamin Koppel, a true COALITION emerged. Werner's singular sensibilities may have initiated the group as his own, yet COALITION proves itself a rare manifesto on collaborative interplay…
The second of the solo piano CDs recorded by Kenny Werner for Steeplechase, this release shows off Werner's considerable talent as a composer as well as showcasing his incredible technique. His three "Meditations" are very lyrical, soft ballads, while "Melodee No. 2" (dedicated to Mel Lewis) is both haunting and playful. Werner's is at his most adventurous as he reharmonizes both "Giant Steps" and "Stella by Starlight" to where they are barely recognizable.
Kenny Werner improvised ballads that reflect his impressions of New York City for this 2009 solo piano session. The Brooklyn native's lyrical touch is present throughout this delightful recording, capturing the stillness of early morning in his moving "First Light/East River." Anyone who has visited the World Trade Center and since returned to view the starkly empty spot where it once stood can't help but be moved by Werner's poignant "Ground Zero," a piece conveying anguish at the terrible loss of life.
As a composer, pianist Kenny Werner's reach is vast: it encompasses not only the jazz heritage, but also the classical and folk traditions, Western and Eastern. Balloons is compiled from two nights of quintet performances at the Blue Note in April of 2010 with trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist David Sanchez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Antonio Sanchez. These four long pieces reveal new traits in Werner's compositional thinking and present complex, harmonic notions accessibly. Simultaneously, this group makes the most of improvisational opportunities presented by their combined dynamic and tonal possibilities.
Kenny Werner is simply prolific. After releasing the stellar live Balloons set earlier this year, he's back in a studio setting, leading the Brussels Jazz Orchestra in a recording of four new compositions and a wonderfully inventive reading of a traditional number. In typical Werner fashion, Institute of Higher Learning is as diverse a big-band outing as you're likely to find. He had a great mentor: during his more formative years, Werner played piano with the Mel Lewis Orchestra, a progressive big-band powerhouse. Combine that experience with his compositional development, and his unusual manner of combining the strengths of individuals inside any size ensemble, and you have the makings for an album full of welcome surprises.