CD review: Kenny Warren Trio – In the Heat 2020: Video, CD cover

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Brooklyn based trumpeter Kenny Warren’s wide-ranging, adventurous musicality has led him on diverse explorations across the musical landscape, from jazz to Americana and from folk to free.

His new record In The Heat features a suite of compositions that he wrote for bassist Matthias Pichler (Wolfgang Muthspiel, Lorenz Raab) and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell (Olli Hirvonen, Yuhan Su). This trumpet-led version of the classic trio format was chosen to maximize the potential for freedom for these accomplished and unclassifiable improvisers. “I’ve always been interested in writing music that can be played with the same feeling of abandon that you get from free playing. It’s difficult because as soon as you put a note on paper, you set up an expectation in the minds of the players which can pull you away from the moment. The fun part is in the tension created by resisting that pull, while still being ready to jump or slide or drift to the next zone when the music calls for it.”

The titles reflect the personal, unfiltered nature of the project, drawn from the cut-up lines of a poem capturing a creative moment in Warren’s life, composing in his summer NYC apartment. ‘My Moments Subtle’ and ‘One Room In My Mind’ bookend this album with two different interpretations of the shortest written piece of the collection: a dancingly propulsive bassline with a simple melody drifting over the top, free to develop wherever the trio take it. ‘Pen In Hand’ spins it’s way into a bright burn with a melody that is “country sort of in the way that Ornette’s music is country” – which belies its complex cellular structure. ‘Brain Phone Wired’ is the most closely written piece, moving through different sections towards a unison melody with unconscious echoes of the Balkans in its close intervals. Prior to writing ‘House Plants Off’ Warren had been absorbed in George Lewis’ history of the AACM: the tune was partly inspired by Roscoe Mitchell and his unique approach to combining writing and improvisation, and the following ‘Finally A Breeze’ reprises the written section after a colourful free trialogue between the players. ‘The Air Conditioning’ is a complex mosaic of written melodic cells played in awesomely precise unison by trumpet and bass – “Matthias and Nathan really spent time getting inside the material, so when we are jump into a version of a piece, it’s like we’re are playing a game of ESP.”

In The Heat is the sound of an artist bringing together the many strands of his creative personality, using the flexibility of the trio format to write without boundaries, and trusting to the perfect understanding between his collaborators to improvise without fear. Like a good hang with old friends, these three strike a balance between pouring their hearts out and just kicking back and having a good time.

1. My Moments Subtle (2:40)
2. Pen in Hand (4:45)
3. Brain Phone Wired (14:34)
4. House Plants Off (5:59)
5. Finally a Breeze (7:24)
6. The Air Conditioning (5:00)
7. One Room in My Mind (3:12)

Kenny Warren – trumpet
Matthias Pichler – bass
Nathan Ellman-Bell – drums

In The Heat | Kenny Warren

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