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Larry Kimpel: The Music Inside

Sooner or later, most A-list session players nurture their own instincts as leaders. I’ve covered contemporary jazz and all its subgenres for 20 years and have reached a startling conclusion: Sideman-turned-solo CDs are usually better than those offered by the dudes they’re backing on the road, in the studio and over cable lines. Bassist Larry Kimpel-he’s a guy who at age 18 got a call from Pop Staples to join him on the road, and has written, produced or performed on songs for Jonathan Butler, Tom Scott, Boney James, Al Jarreau and many others-is yet another example.

The easy answer to the sideman vs. leader riddle, I suppose, is that session players see what works and what stinks on a daily basis. They’re exposed to music of all genres. Guys like Kimpel and their damn-the-torpedoes approach forbids the safe and overproduced production that many of their “bosses” fixate on with their bottom-line goggle glasses. Kimpel’s The Music Inside is a festive project that’s neither overproduced nor mixed to death. And its hollow sound recalls CDs made with vacuum-tube technology more than a decade ago.

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