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Bob Kindred: Gentle Giant of the Tenor

Anyone who heard Bob Kindred’s heartfelt tenor saxophone solos on two tracks of singer Jimmy Scott’s Over the Rainbow (Milestone) and wished for more is in good company. Pianist Larry Willis was on the Scott date and was so impressed with Kindred that he pressed Mapleshade’s Pierre Sprey to let him record with the saxophonist in a duo. It was a good idea. The two play off of and inspire one another.

Much is made in the liner notes of Kindred’s affinity for Stan Getz, Ben Webster, John Coltrane, even King Curtis. No saxophonist of Kindred’s age (he is 61) who has ears could avoid being affected by at least the first three on that list. Still, he is so clearly an original that on Willis’ “Ethiopia” or Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count,” which is indelibly associated with Johnny Hodges, a listener would have to strain to believe that Kindred is borrowing anything. He directly evokes his heroes only on “The Things We Did Last Summer” (Webster) and Django Reinhardt’s “Anouman” (Getz). Kindred has an enormous tone. He possesses lightning speed, which he employs judiciously. He goes deep into chords to find beautiful sequences of notes, and he invests each one with passion. In the case of “Blue Moon,” which he and Willis transform into an off-the-wall Thelonious Monk fantasia, it is the passion of humor.

Willis is better known than Kindred, but not nearly to the degree that his talent warrants. He accompanies and solos beautifully here. This may be the sleeper duo recording of the year.

Originally Published