May 2001

Kenny Hing
The Little King
Quixotic

Neat. If there has to be a one-word summation to Kenny Hing's The Little King, "neat" captures it. The quintet is as tight as it is loose: your standard bop complement of tenor (Hing) and trumpet (Bob Ojeda), whose collective timbre is as singular as there solo statements are individual. The support they receive from pianist Mike Abene, bassist David Jackson and drummer Dennis Mackrel is so instinctive, you'd swear they're joined at the hip.

Above all, the writing is crisp: too bad arranger credits aren't listed for all the tracks. Abene and Ojeda are singled out once each, but all the lines, as sparing as they are, deserve attribution. This is not just a hasty, head-arrangement, blowing session. Each tune is intelligently, lovingly approached. Among the standouts: the Latinization of "Time on My Hands"; the subtle waltzing of "Remember"; the laid-back, gentle swing of "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" and "Born to Be Blue"; and above all, the clever charts on "Cheek to Cheek" and "Limehouse Blues."

It's such a perfect group effort that it would be unfair to single out solo highlights. But on "Memphis in June" and "Born to Be Blue," Hing betrays his Coleman Hawkins/Ben Webster roots. Such worthy roots. Makes for a session that can be described as, well, neat.

Originally published in May 2001
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