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Bill McKay & Sounds of Now by Bill McKay

If you enjoy meandering, doodling, low-intensity jazz, this album might work for you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while many people prefer compositions a bit more structured, what is presented here might be enjoyable for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

McKay presents six tracks that all seem indistinguishable from each other. All of them are essentially formless jams for guitar and sax. Again, that is not necessarily bad, but it does mean you can't really impose many expectations on the music. The instrumentation itself seems good enough. In addition to McKay's guitar and Ward's alto sax, the usual bass and drums rhythm section offers some general foundation.

There is one curious experiment the first track, "Soul in Violet" includes Bud Melvin on banjo. That adds a country quality, and for a while you may wonder if this is some bold venture into bluegrass jazz. But not quite. The banjo is not featured, it is just there, doodling away in the background, adding to the texture but not really doing much else.

The album overall seems lacking in ambition, but perhaps that is the point. Some bands do try so hard that the musical ambition can work against the listener. But McKay takes the opposite tack, giving the impression of playing a total improvisation. Fortunately, the sounds are reasonable and often pleasant. As long a listener is comfortable with daydreaming, that's fine. Just be warned these are pieces without themes, motifs, refrains, or much of any other structure.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Bill McKay
  • CD Title: Bill McKay & Sounds of Now
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Son of Fire
  • Tracks: Soul in Violet, Illumination, Sleepwalking, Idyll, The Bystander, Serpentine
  • Musicians: Bill McKay (guitar), Bud Melvin (banjo), Charles Rumback (drums), Greg Ward (alto saxophone), Kyle Hernandez (bass), Todd Hill (bass)
  • Rating: Two Stars
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