Bob Kindred & Larry Willis: Gentle Giant of the Tenor Sax
Just back from a little Jimmy Scott recording date, Larry Willis raved about this gorgeous sounding
tenor player he’d found. Wow, was he on the money! Right from the start of their session, I was startled
by Kindred’s amazing down-home blues power, the legacy of the great Philly organ trios he first toured with.
When he switched to ballads, I heard those breathy, 24-karat Ellingtonian moans, a tribute to his big
band years. In between there were flashes of Monk and Miles and ’Trane, unexpected but breathtaking.
Chuck Berg of Jazz Times agrees: “It’s fair to say that Kindred now ranks with the giants of his
instrument, with Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, John Coltrane and Zoot Sims.” Inspired by this
heady brew, Larry’s piano reaches heights of emotion I’ve only heard from him once or twice before. And
the sound is Mapleshade crème de la crème—probably the richest piano overtones and the most intimate sax
breathiness you may ever hear out of your speakers.
- 1. Juicy Lucy (H. Silver)
-Listen to Sample
- 2. Warm Valley (E.K. Ellington)
- 3. Ethiopia (L. Willis)
- 4. We See (T. Monk)
-Listen to Sample
- 5. Blood Count (W. Strayhorn)
- 6. Wabash Blues (S.J. Bechet)
- 7. Jitterbug Waltz (T.A. Waller)
-Listen to Sample
- 8. Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter (F. Ahlert/ J. YOung)
- 9. Reflections (E.K. Ellington/ M. Houseman/ M. Raskin)
- 10. Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me (E.K. Ellington/ B. Russei)
- 11. On The Street Where You Live (A.J. Lerner/ F. Loewe)
- 12. Don't Blame Me (D. Fields/ J. McHUgh)
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Review by Jazz Times
Anyone who heard Bob Kindred’s heart-felt tenor saxophone solos on two tracks of singer Jimmy Scott’s
Over the Rainbow (Milestone) and wished for more is in good company. Pianist Larry Willis was on the
Scott date and was so impressed with Kindred that he pressed Mapleshade’s Pierre Sprey to let him record
with the saxophonist in a duo. It was a good idea. The two play off of and inspire one another.
Much is made in the liner notes of Kindred’s affinity for Stan Getz, Ben Webster, John Coltrane, even
King Curtis. No saxophonist of Kindred’s age (he is 61) who has ears could avoid being affected by at
least the first three on that list. Still, he is so clearly an original that on Willis’ “Ethiopia” or
Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count,” which is indelibly associated with Johnny Hodges, a listener would have
to strain to believe that Kindred is borrowing anything. He directly evokes his heroes only on “The Things
We Did Last Summer” (Webster) and Django Reinhardt’s “Anouman” (Getz). Kindred has an enormous tone. He
possesses lightning speed, which he employs judiciously. He goes deep into chords to find beautiful
sequences of notes, and he invests each one with passion. In the case of “Blue Moon,” which he and Willis
transform into an off-the-wall Thelonious Monk fantasia, it is the passion of humor.
Willis is better known than Kindred, but not nearly to the degree that his talent warrants. He accompanies
and solos beautifully here. This may be the sleeper duo recording of the year. -Doug Ramsey
Review by All About Jazz
Bob Kindred traveled to the bucolic surroundings of Mapleshade's recording studio in rural Maryland to
team with pianist Larry Willis for a session of more than 60 minutes' worth of "gentle" but not outdated
jazz performances. In some respects Kindred is a throwback to Ben Webster and the tender side of Stan Getz.
His playing recalls that distinctive rasping timbre and excellent rhythmic momentum that characterized
Webster, especially in his later years. But Kindred also shows that he is not unfamiliar with the modern
jazz idiom as he interpolates dissonant avant garde improvisations throughout, such as on of Django
Reinhardt's "Anouman" while still managing to retain that Webster breathy sax sound. But it's the sheer
beauty of Kindred's tone and his consummate lyricism that will catch the ear of most listeners. His warm,
full-bodied rendition of "The Things We Did Last Summer" is a throwback to the days when melody was
important. No matter how many times it was improvised upon, saxophone players like Webster, Getz, Young
and Hawkins always returned to the melody, the heart of the song. There's a feeling of deja vu as the
opening measures of Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count" slither from the speakers. Kindred's tenor takes on
the sensuous, earthy sound of Johnny Hodges' alto, a sound he retains through most of this cut. Kindred's
fingers deftly flit over the keys of his tenor on Horace Silver's "Juicy Lucy" slipping in modern jazz
ideas in between measures of soul jazz. Very innovative and quite singular.
Regular Mapleshade and top jazz pianist Larry Willis, is the sole playing chaperon for Kindred on this set.
He becomes Kindred's alter ego on such tunes as "Blue Moon" where Willis' jagged comping sets off Kindred's
in depth exploration of this classic warhorse. His pensive pianism is highlighted by a lengthy solo on
"Warm Valley". He also contributed his "Ethiopia" to the play list. This album perfects the merging of
the styles of earlier saxophone greats with modern jazz ideas and is highly recommended. Visit Mapleshade
on the web at www.mapleshaderecords.com. -Dave Nathan
Review by Cadence
The intriguing quotation on the cover putting Bob Kindred in the same league as Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins,
Stan Getz, John Coltrane, and Zoot Sims has to raise some eyebrows, but it also might be a little unfair to
Kindred in that it sets expectations that are difficult, if not impossible, to meet. In fairness, Kindred
is a very strong performer, his rich fat tone, solid technique, and mature phrasing reminding the listener
of some other experienced unsung saxophonists such as Bennie Wallace and Larry Schneider. Pianist Larry
Willis is Kindred’s partner for this recording, and a good choice. Willis is a sensitive performer, one
of the best accompanists on the scene today, his delicate touch and total technique similar to that of
the great Franco D'Andrea. Together, Kindred and Willis choose mostly well known tunes, often at slow
tempos, in which they infuse the pieces with heavily emotional content. While there is a pristine beauty
that is present throughout, there are occasions, particularly during the first three tunes, when my mind
drifted a bit. Still, this is music that is serious without being overbearing, and when Kindred is at his
best he is an impressive highly developed performer. His version of Ellington’s “Warm Valley” is worthy
of the best, and his take of “Blue Moon” (a risky choice) is notable for its originality. Monk’s “We See”
is given a characteristically angular and hard-edged interpretation, while Strayhorn’s “ Bloodcount” drips
with emotion…This is one that deserves to be heard. -Steven Loewry
Review by Soundstage
What do you get when you combine a record label known for sweating all the details with an extremely
talented A/R director/pianist and a tenor saxophonist who combines Ben Webster's big, warm sound,
Stan Getz' dry coolness, John Coltrane's improvisational aggressiveness, and Johnny Hodges' affinity for
the melodic line into a sonic signature indisputably his own? That’s easy. You have the latest jazz CD
from Mapleshade Records, Gentle Giant of the Tenor Sax by Bob Kindred with Larry Willis.
Both Mapleshade and pianist Larry Willis are familiar to audiophiles, but just who is tenor saxophonist
Bob Kindred and why should you be interested in listening to him? Fair question.
Kindred is a musician's musician who has played with ensembles ranging from organ trios to big bands.
Lately, he's been collaborating with jazz icons such as Hank Jones, Clark Terry, Roy Eldridge, Toots
Thielemans, and Mel Lewis. With a resume like that, he has everything a jazz giant needs, with the
possible exception of individual recognition. This CD should go a long way toward solving that little
"Ethiopia" features Kindred in his best Ben Webster/John Coltrane groove. Thelonius Monk’s "We See" shows
how seamlessly Kindred would have fit into any of Monk’s groups -- his command of Monk's intricate use of
space and angular melodic lines is as assured as that of anyone I’ve heard, and that includes Sonny Rollins
and Coltrane. But the cut that probably best illustrates Kindred’s mastery over the tenor is his flight
on the Billy Strayhorn classic "Blood Count." Kindred imbues the very first few notes with passion and
heartache -- and that's when I knew I was in for one of the best readings of this tune I’d ever heard.
He has his own style and a unique feel for the tunes he’s working through.
The sound given Kindred’s sax here is first-rate. I could hear his breath blowing through, by and around
the reed of his mouthpiece. And the sounds of his fingers pressing on the saxophone's keys were
startlingly real. There was a real person, blowing a full-sized tenor sax, playing in my living room.
It’s too bad Willis’ piano didn’t get quite the same treatment. While it’s fully sized and well placed
in the recording space, it doesn’t have quite the percussive impact I’ve heard on other, better piano
recordings. Still, this is a somewhat minor quibble and shouldn’t take away from anyone's enjoyment of
this disc (it certainly didn’t affect mine).
So, just who is Bob Kindred? He’s a tenor saxophonist who deserves wider recognition -- a situation I
would expect this CD to remedy. I look forward to hearing more Kindred from Mapleshade, hopefully in a
quartet or quintet setting. (Hey Pierre, how about a date with Willis, Walter Booker, Jimmy Cobb and
Hamiet Bluiett? Please?) -John Crossett