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Kenny Werner: Beat Degeneration

It is surprising that there is no applause present after any tune but the last on Kenny Werner’s Beat Degeneration (Sunnyside). The CD’s seven Werner compositions were selected from nine sets of performances at the Sunside Club in Paris in November 2000, and almost everything on Beat Degeneration is fresh, original, unpredictable and excellent. The levels of creativity from the musicians and interaction between them are very high. It is difficult to determine where composition ends and improvisation begins throughout most of the recording, which should intrigue anyone seeking music with the attributes previously stated.

Bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Ari Hoenig are extremely well suited for Werner’s musical sensibility and shift in and out of straight rhythmic support very well in a manner that greatly enhances the music. Hoenig has a fast, light touch, and he’s consistently and successfully creative. I began looking for other recordings that include Hoenig after one listen to this one.

The paramount performances here include “Little Blue Man,” which begins with a clever ostinato bass line, “Trio Imitation,” which includes an intro that is almost classical, and the title tune. Only “Guru,” where the results (including Werner’s grunting) are similar to one of Keith Jarrett’s ’70s recordings, is not worthy of repeated listening and contemplation.

Beat Degeneration is the best record led by or including Werner that I have heard.

Originally Published