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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.

Kimpel covers “People Make the World Go Round” and “Summer Breeze,” the latter with guitarist Allen Hinds and drummer Will Kennedy, but the most excellent tunes are the originals, which all have an R&B/pop/funk sensibility. “Freedom to Fly,” especially, with Kimpel’s wordless vocals floating over a slow groove, and “Love Is All There Is,” a chillish soul vibe with an impossibly deep bass loop, is particularly terrific.

Originally Published