Jason Lee Bruns & Kevin Bechelder – Cherry Avenue (2015)

Artist: Jason Lee Bruns & Kevin Bechelder
Title Of Album: Cherry Avenue
Year Of Release: 2015
Genre: Jazz, Soul, Pop
Label: Panout Music Group
Format: MP3
Quality: 320 kbps, 44.1 Khz
Total Time: 40:25
Total Size: 102 MB
Covers: Front

01. My Romance (3:15)
02. Autumn Leaves (feat. Daniel Szabo & Ron Blake) (4:05)
03. I Fall in Love Too Easily (feat. Daniel Szabo) (4:28)
04. Waters of March (feat. Angelo Metz) (4:00)
05. Dear Prudence (feat. Kim Richmond) (3:41)
06. Send in the Clowns (feat. Angelo Metz) (4:04)
07. Like Someone in Love (feat. Angelo Metz & Kim Richmond) (3:53)
08. It Didn’t Work Out That Way (feat. Kim Richmond) (5:43)
09. Ain’t No Sunshine (feat. Jacques Voyemant) (3:27)
10. Cherry Avenue (feat. Brandon Fields) (3:45)

When Jason Lee Bruns asked me to write the liner notes for his new CD, Cherry Avenue, recorded with singer Kevin Bachelder, my first reaction was, “Ah, a jazz odd couple.” I knew Jason Lee as a drummer/percussionist with an irresistible groove, and Kevin as a vocal artist with a gift for telling a captivating musical story. And my question was whether this potential jazz world Oscar and Felix duo could find a way to blend their strong individual characteristics into a productive partnership.

Well, there’s no cliffhanger on the answer. It won’t take more than one or two tracks from this compelling program of songs to illustrate how effectively Kevin and Jason combined their creative visions. How did they do it? The right way. As Jason and Kevin made clear to me, they did so by finding the common ground between their territories.

Start with the way in which Jason’s colorful grooves energize each song. Consider, for example: the Cuban son rhythms of “Autumn Leaves”; the samba of “Waters of March”; the Afro Brazilian afoxé of John Lennon’s “Dear Prudence”; the bossa nova of “Like Someone in Love.» Making the most of those settings, Kevin’s vocals are vividly alive, his warm mid-range and soaring head tones brilliantly illuminating the songs’ inner stories.

Another vital aspect of Cherry Avenue traces to the arrangements. Jason and Kevin are trained musician/arrangers, recalling the rare orchestration skills of such predecessors as drummer Louie Bellson and singer Mel Torme. Writing for the modest instrumentation of three horns, guitar, piano, bass and drums, Jason and Kevin devised a colorful array of timbres and textures. On many tunes they employ an effective small band version of big band sound, often calling up similarities to the hard-hitting qualities of Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Both Jason and Kevin are too musically sophisticated, however, to be locked into any single stylistic setting. And, on the opening tune, “My Romance,” Kevin’s arrangement immediately establishes the varied setting characterizing the entire album. Starting with a jaunty vocal, primarily backed by Jason’s brisk drumming, the song builds to a muscular horn-driven climax. The B,S&T-like prominence of the horns returns in other tunes – “Dear Prudence,” “Send In The Clowns,” “Like Someone In Love” and “It Didn’t Work Out That Way” among them.

Additional highlights trace to the arrangement ideas of Jason and Kevin, which often enhance the settings by featuring soloists with the vocals. Listen to the subtle piano of Daniel Szabo on “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” the juxtaposition of Kevin’s scatting and Ron Blake’s trumpet on “Autumn Leaves,” Brazilian Angelo Metz’s atmospheric guitar on “Waters of March,” Kim Richmond’s clarinet on “Like Someone In Love,” Jacques Voyemant’s trombone on “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Brandon Fields’ tenor saxophone on “Cherry Avenue.”

There’s more, much more, to praise in the songs that Jason Lee Bruns and Kevin Bachelder have found or written, arranged and performed for Cherry Avenue. But the music speaks for itself. And it remains for listeners to simply sit back and enjoy the numerous pleasures of this memorable album. ~Don Heckman


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