Suit-Up!-- Matt Kane Trio

Matt Kane's state-of-the-art drumming elevates this guitar-organ hookup to the level of the sublime. Kane paid his dues on the Kansas City jazz scene, where he spent two years with saxophonist Ahmad Alaadeen's Deans of Swing and also worked with such artists as Paul Smith, Mike Metheny, Claude "Fiddler" Williams, and Karrin Allyson. Moving to New York in 1997, Kane has remained very active, performing with Norah Jones, Roy Ayers, Joe Locke, Randy Brecker, and Mark Turner, among many others, while also establishing the Matt Kane School of Drumming. Guitarist Dave Stryker honed his sophisticated, blues-based style during a 10-year stint with Stanley Turrentine, and his numerous recordings include those with his Blue to the Bone group and the Stryker/Slagle Band, co-led with saxophonist Steve Slagle. Kyle Koehler can hold his own with just about any other organist today, as shown by his work with Lou Donaldson, David "Fathead" Newman, Bobby Watson, Jimmy Heath, and Don Braden. Both have played with Kane previously, and their special rapport is to be relished as the trio wends its way through a series of tailor-made tunes by Kane, Stryker, Alaadeen, Pat Metheny, and others. It doesn't, as they say, get any better than this.

Stryker's mellow reading of "John McKee," Metheny's familiar theme, floats over Koehler and Kane's foundation. Kane's back beat and drum rolls propel the guitarist and organist during their blues-saturated solos, with Koehler in particular letting loose in his climactic bars. "Who Can I Turn To?" vividly displays Stryker's balladic skills as he glowingly and knowingly negotiates the changes of the Bricusse/Newley standard. Koehler's long tones and Kane's skittering, flexible rhythm patterns enhance Stryker's solo, and the drummer maintains his always responsive focus for both the B-3 improv and the subsequent spicy trades amongst the threesome. There's vibrant interplay between Stryker and Koehler on the captivating theme of the guitarist's "Shadowboxing," leading to a flowing solo by the composer that contains a Wes Montgomery-like relentless momentum and a similar biting phraseology, his use of repeated motifs especially effective. Koehler takes a comparable approach, mixing wailing riffs with surging lines. Kane's dynamic presentation is thematically attuned, and his commentary behind the soloists prods and elaborates, on a track that evokes Montgomery with Jimmy Smith back in the day.

Kane's dreamy ballad "As You Left" is deeply soulful, with Stryker and Koehler harmonizing on the melody. The mood is sustained artfully throughout the guitar and organ solos, with Kane's brushes laying down the perfectly apt cushion. Stryker's "Minor Mutiny" features Kane's muscular intro and backing of Koehler's exposition of the insistent, staccato theme, making this a must listen from the start. The organist's solo is a breakneck, spiraling delight, and Stryker follows at a slightly calmer, but no less cooking pace. All the while, Kane's fills and exuberant punctuations are breathtaking, capped by his own again thematically evocative, detailed workout prior to the reprise. As with his "As You Left," Kane shows his flair for writing soulfully enchanting tunes with "Mr. Rogers." After Koehler skillfully captures the theme's essence, Stryker creates a bluesy solo that builds slowly but surely, and then Kane offers a striking interlude that emphasizes his cymbal artistry.

"Big Six" is a slow blues from Alaadeen that is enunciated by Koehler's creamy and Stryker's pinpoint tones. The organist's solo is remindful of both Groove Holmes and Wild Bill Davis, while Stryker's sustains a low-key, insinuating Kenny Burrell type of vibe. Kane's varied, sensitive support is a key constant all the way. Alaadeen's "21st Century Ragg" also takes its own sweet time, here with a coy, harmonically enticing theme and a stalking rhythmic core. Stryker explores incisively and expansively, Koehler pushing him hard but also sympathetically. The organist in turn preaches eloquently with Jimmy Smith's influence lurking in the nature of his riffs, held notes, and inflections. "That's the Way of the World," the title tune of the celebrated 1975 Earth, Wind & Fire album, finds the trio at their soulful, funky best. Stryker plays the melody with a warm, ringing sound, and Koehler's solo has a gospel, churchy quality. The guitarist's spirited trip treads the same ground, with Kane's back beat combining with Koehler's penetrating bass lines for a mesmerizing underpinning.

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Scott Albin