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Larry McKenna: Profile

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Tenor saxophonist McKenna is a long standing fixture of the Philadelphia jazz scene. He presents here eight tunes in standard quartet format and two others featuring vocalist Nancy Reed. The material is mostly familiar, including three tunes by Cole Porter, a blues, “Out Of Nowhere”, “Two For The Road”, “Tres Palabras”, and an original melody to the chord changes of “How Deep Is The Ocean.”

Despite the familiarity of the material there is a good deal of life in the best of the record. McKenna plays well at all tempos here but functions as living evidence to support the belief that ballad playing improves with age. It is difficult to think of a young tenor player who handles ballads as well as McKenna, especially on the less familiar “I’ll Close My Eyes” and “Two For The Road.” The bossa styled performance of Porter’s less often heard “Dream Dancing” also showcases his ability to bring the most out of a tune by showing how to maintain a relaxed presence and still be expressive.

The rhythm section provides fine, sympathetic support for McKenna and some interesting solos as well. The music is very well recorded and the CD is attractively packaged. Listeners seeking quality saxophone music in a pre Coltrane/Henderson/Shorter/Brecker style would be wise to seek this one out.

Originally Published