Fresh Sound New Talent
The vast majority of Arthur Kell's The Traveller is entertaining, delightful music, and even the few tracks that aren't quite as interesting are still very well executed. The only thing that keeps this from being a uniformly exciting work are a handful of uneven compositions, notably the meandering "Crinkum Crankum" and the concluding "Lucy's Back," which never generates any rhythmic or melodic energy. But those two numbers are more than balanced by the sheer beauty of tracks like "Hermeto," a sizzling piece that celebrates the wonderful percussionist and bandleader Hermeto Pascoal, the brisk opening tune "I Believe Ya" and the reflective works "Ijinna," "Djailo Feast" and "Mary Louise." Gorka Benitez is a good tenor saxophonist, but he's a better, more spirited and imaginative flutist. Guitarist Steve Cardenas adds the transition passages and links usually provided by the piano within the arrangements, yet he's also a capable soloist when necessary. Kell and drummer Joe Smith not only work well in tandem, each can guide or shape the musical direction when the other takes a more central role during a selection.