Sunday, June 4, 2017
Album Review: Hermon Mehari- Bleu
What’s the definitive sound of Kansas City in 2017? Obvious candidates include the chiming of streetcars, Tech N9ne’s speed-raps, Bobby Watson’s soulful saxophone solos and the ecstatic roar of 17,000 people cheering for Garth Brooks at the Sprint Center. The artistically fruitful collaboration between Hermon Mehari and Peter Schlamb is the sound that best exemplifies the town to me.
The trumpeter- the most prominent young jazz musician Kansas City has produced this millennium aside from the saxophonist Logan Richardson- and the vibraphonist Schlamb have been refining their distinctive approach for several years. The strongest tracks on Mehari’s debut solo album Bleu are extensions of the sound documented on Schlamb’s stunning 2014 album Tinks.
“Tatras,” “Moment’s Notice” and “We Love” encapsulate the vital artistry of the adventurous duo. The selections’ scattering rhythms and meticulously distorted sounds capture the sense of youthful exuberance that makes their performances highlights of the Kansas City jazz calendar.
Elsewhere, Mehari evokes the tender side of Freddie Hubbard on “Sunset Park” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” The au courant “Awakening,” a Mehari composition that showcases Richardson, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Ryan Lee, possesses the immediate presence of a Jon Brion production. The band demonstrates its affinity for mainstream jazz on “Our Journey Revisited.” “Cold” is a neo-soul jam. While impressive, Bleu’s variety works better as a head-turning resume then as a cohesive artistic statement.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)