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Tom Kennedy: Stories (Autumn Hill)

A review of the bassist's first album to consist completely of original compositions

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Cover of Tom Kennedy album Stories
Cover of Tom Kennedy album Stories

Maybe it’s his humility, or a last name more associated with politics, but electric bassist Tom Kennedy has been underrecognized for decades. Perhaps his sixth solo recording, Stories, will help propel the veteran musician—who’s worked with Steps Ahead, Dave Weckl, Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, and more—to deserving new heights. The 60-year-old St. Louis native brings homeboys Weckl and keyboardist Jay Oliver along, plus Stern and Brecker, for the first recording to exclusively feature the bassist’s own tunes—all composed on keyboards, which he also plays throughout the disc.

The opening “Hurry Up!” is an ode to the big-band music that Kennedy, Weckl, and Oliver listened to during formative years in the Midwest. All three players are also in Weckl’s simpatico band, as is saxophonist Gary Meek, who forms the horn section here with trumpeter Nick Marchione. Equal parts orchestral and funky, a Kennedy staple, the piece features banner breaks by Meek, Oliver, and Weckl, whose inimitable propulsion and soloing capacity over a vamp are on display. “Elements” goes deeper into the funk realm and features saxophonist Ada Rovatti (on tenor and soprano) and Stern, whose inclusion furthers the influence of the Brecker Brothers Band he was once a part of. Percussionist Roger Squitero provides additional percolation, as he does throughout the CD.

“A Simple Song” and “Altitude” both strut, the former with Kennedy on acoustic upright, the latter featuring one of his mind-bending electric solos plus the tenor and soprano sax stylings of Bill Evans and the presence of another St. Louis buddy, drummer Roger Guth. Brecker guests on the Latin-tinged title track and closing “BB’s Blues,” burning down the house with Rovatti (his wife), Weckl, Oliver, Marchione, Squitero, and the bassist/bandleader fanning the flames.

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Originally Published