Andy McKee & NEXT: Sound Roots
Picture this: Miles’ exciting, late sixties horn blend, the rhythmic urge of a Mingus solo, a note-bending,
bluesy electric guitar—and Mapleshade sound. That’s Sound Roots. “The mood here is modern, blues-tinged…
McKee plays the devil out of the bass, as his performances with the Mingus Big Band, Elvin Jones and others
have proved. His walking lines are wrist-thick, filled with limber notes; his intonation is spot-on…”
★★★★ 1/2 Stars, according to Down Beat. Andy’s feel-it-in-the-floor bass propels the gorgeously natural-sounding
horns and the warm electric guitar. Billy Kilson’s drums are excitingly splashy and dynamic The originals
by McKee are irresistible. Their rhythmic twists and turns, their surprising changes in mood keep me
riveted. Features Alex Foster on sax locked ultra-tight with Ryan Kisor on trumpet, backed by Ed Cherry’s
soulful, Bensonesque electric guitar.
- 1. Top Hat (A. McKee)
-Listen to Sample
- 2. All Blues (M. Davis)
- 3. Sound Roots (A. McKee)
- 4. Andrea (E. Cherry)
- 5. 56 Blows (A. McKee)
- 6. Inner Circle (A. McKee)
- 7. Blues Interrogation (A. McKee)
- 8. U-Turn (A. McKee)
- 9. Hilltop Stomp (A. McKee)
-Listen to Sample
- 10. In A Perfect World (A. McKee)
-Listen to Full Song
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Review by Jazz Times
This intriguing date pivots around the protean bass of Andy McKee, best known for his sound footings for
the tumultuous Mingus Big Band. Here, McKee steps to the fore with NEXT, a genuinely progressive
post-fusion unit in which echoes of Mingus, Ornette and Frisell resound with serious yet playful
abandon. Now several years old McKee's tightly knit quintet features electric guitarist Ed Cherry,
saxophonist Alex Foster, trumpeter Ryan Kisor and drummer Billy Kilson. It's a dynamic line-up. Solos
and ensembles crackle.
With a galvanizing postmodern mix suggesting both the discipline of Blakey's Jazz Messengers and the
openness of Ornette's Harmolodicians, the band draws us in with a seductively intimate sound. There are
fireworks as in McKee's time-tricky Blues Interrogation. Then, in tracks like Top Hat, a loping pulse,
a wave of epigrammatic flights, and a sly come-hither vamp carry the day. Along with McKee's program of
ear-catching originals, there's a riveting retake of Miles' All Blues. Strong! -Chuck Berg
Review by Down Beat
Andy McKee plays the devil out of the bass, as his performances with the Mingus Big Band, Elvin Jones
and others have proved. His walking lines are wrist-thick, filled with limber notes; his intonation is
spot-on; and he might as well be sitting behind the drums given his time feel. The cat can solo, too,
letting loose singing phrases that have a horn-like shape.
You hear all that on Sound Roots, which features McKee's quintet, NEXT. The album shows that this youthful
journeyman can write to boot. Both as a dynamic composer and fearless, resourceful arranger (All Blues),
McKee consistently turns to the unexpected, keeping the listener happily surprised.
The mood here is modern, blues-tinged, energized, swinging, unfettered. There are references to Mingus,
naturally, Coltrane (the lyric turn of the title track) and Miles, but this music has a personal sound not
quite like anyone else's.
The collection is a series of choice moments that can be enjoyed repeatedly, and, I would imagine, for
many years as well. All Blues rides in on a windstorm from Kilson's drums, the head stated languorously
over this foment. Then solos from Kisor and Foster, two distinctive, different and decidedly under
recognized stylists, are heard over a repeating bass vamp. Blues Interrogation segues from a punchy
melody and group free improv (back and forth four times) to a gutsy slow blues that's just seven bars
long. Here, Kisor interweaves intricate, juicy lines with simpler ones and Cherry, another unsung
musician, drops in ringing chords — he relishes texture — and fierce lines that show his fondness for
B.B. King, et.al.
Hilltop Stomp is a Mingus-esque 12/8 blues, à la Better Git Hit In Your Soul. Bluiett, digging into his
blues bag, cooks within the changes, and then without them. 56 Blows, written after the initial Rodney
King verdict, is anger in music. With Cherry offering searing lines over tempestuous beats from Kilson
and McKee, this is not a pleasant track but its meaning is razor-sharp. U-Turn finds Foster and Kisor
soloing simultaneously over a single chord, creating a unified sound seemingly without intent.
McKee is not adverse to beauty: both his Inner Circle and In A Perfect World are moving and tender, as
is Cherry's leaning toward-pop Andrea.
A definite plus here is the superb audio, a Mapleshade standard. Recorded direct to analog (then
transferred to digital) without as much as a mixing board, let alone overdubs, the sound here is live
and large. Details are everywhere, with Kilson's set so clean that his slightest change of inflection
With Sound Roots, McKee joins a growing group of bassist/leaders who show they not only know music,
they can make splendid recordings. Well done. -Zan Steward
Review by Down Beat
On the grounds of an old tobacco plantation in Upper Marlboro, Maryland lies the home of a recording
studio called Mapleshade. Mapleshade's no-nonsense approach to recording makes them an audiophile's
dream. Hamiet Bluiett has been producing albums for Mapleshade in his quest to bring recognition to
musicians that have been overlooked by major labels. Andy McKee's Sound Roots is the seventh volume in
Bluiett's Explorations series. McKee, the bassist for the Mingus Big Band and Elvin Jones Jazz Machine,
has been the first bassist-director of the Mingus Big Band since Mingus himself. The Philadelphia native
has been developing his quintet, NEXT, for the past few years. NEXT features McKee on bass, Ed Cherry
on guitar, Alex Foster on saxophones, Ryan Kisor on trumpet, and Billy Kilson on drums.
McKee starts Top Hat, a tune that grew from a sound check riff, with a series of big, fat plucks. Foster's
hard-blowing intensity compliments Cherry's immensely resonant, lyrical sound. Kilson aggressively
attacks the toms and snares on 56 Blows, McKee's response to the anger and frustration he felt over
the Rodney King verdict. Kilson's furious rant lasts throughout this five minute drum solo. Bluiett's
haunting, hollow sound dominates the lower registers of Hilltop Stomp, a tune he guests on, literally
getting off the couch of the recording studio to play. Bluiett's liberal grooves are one of the many
highlights of a stimulating hour of music.
McKee may bring about comparisons to Mingus, but McKee is planting his own roots and carries on the
uncompromising music generating from an old tobacco plantation in the backwoods of Maryland. -Fred Jung
Review by CMJ
From the Explorations series supervised by baritonist Hamiet Bluiett (who guests) comes the debut
offering from bassist/composer Andy McKee and his quintet, NEXT. The wail of the blues and the
polyrhythmic of this material bespeak the leader's two principal associations — drummer Elvin Jones'
Jazz Machine and the Mingus Big Band. But equally integral to the success of this postbop production
are McKee's composing style and his chamberlike instrumental configuration: Eschewing piano, the
leader fashions a fluid, tight-knit ensemble ethos by employing guitarist Ed Cherry along with saxist
Alex Foster, pocket trumpeter Ryan Kisor and drummer Billy Kilson. Recorded live to two-track analog
without overdubs, mixing or noise reduction (as all Mapleshade CDs are), Sound Roots is full and
flavorful without being the least bit predictable. Choice cuts include the title track and 56 Blows
(written in anger after the cops were acquitted in the Rodney King case). -Gene Kalbacher
|Just wanted to say excellent job on the Sound Roots CD. The
recording fully captures the air, every nuance and even the
movement of fingers on the instruments. I am really glad you sent
me a catalog.|
||One of my very favorite Mapleshade CDs!
|Hilltop Stomp is my favorite track, but theres not a clunker in the bunch.|
|- Eldon B, MD|