ARTIST: George Kahn
ALBUM: Midnight Brew
LABEL: Playing Records (2003)
“Midnight Brew”, California-based George Kahn’s fourth CD release, stands as a good reminder that Jazz, in spite of all its abstract phases and technological advances, is dance music at its core. Spanning 73 minutes and a multitude of flavors (ranging from Bebop to Latin), “Midnight Brew” attempts to capture the essence of several Jazz movements over the past 50 years and combine them into a strong selection of songs as suited to the dance floor as it is to your home.
To tackle such an ambitious goal Kahn enlisted the help of several first-class musicians diverse in their talent and experience. The main ensemble –saxophonist Eric Marienthal, Grammy-nominated trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez, bassist Karl Vincent, and mainstay percussionist M.B. Gordy—plays together with an amazing synergy while allowing any one member to shine during the moments best suited to his experience.
Ironically what seems to hold “Midnight Brew” together is the fact that, for the many different influences on its individual tracks, the overall concept rarely strays entirely from the Bebop-with-a-dash-of-funk formula. When the album does completely change direction as it does with the romantic, vocal-infused “Out of Time”, the transition back to a funkier sound is smooth and natural. Kahn’s remake of “I Heard it through the Grapevine” forsakes the melancholy of the Marvin Gaye original in favor of a more lounge-like atmosphere, while the piano and flute driven “Night Shadows” pays homage to pianist Dave Brubeck. The bulk of experimentation is saved for the playful closing track, “12 short years”, which features among other things a fantastic 2 minute drum solo by Gordy.
“Midnight Brew” works as a concept because it draws on many influences while remaining uniform in its approach. While it could be argued that the album as a whole could take more risks in its exploration, the trade-off would likely be the smooth flow that gives “Midnight Brew” nearly infinite replay value, from start to finish. Recommended listening for all Jazz enthusiasts.
Rating: 8 out of 10