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No Gravity by Klobas Kesecker Ensemble

This self-produced release exemplifies the healthy state of independent jazz. With elements of world jazz, Latin jazz and straight ahead grooves, they defy easy categorization. Devoid of big label and big PR company push, this four piece from San Francisco forges on simply because the muse is too insistently important to ignore. Comprised of original material, with well chosen takes on familiar and obscure material, No Gravity is a wholly riveting and engaging 10-song delight. Opening with a gorgeous take on Johnny Mandel’s "Barbara’s Theme," a tune previously cut by both Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan, tenor saxophonist Gene Burkert is at once muscular and melodic, somewhat reminiscent of classic John Klemmer. With the support of Pat Klobas’ bass, Tommy Kesecker’s hypnotic vibes and David Rokeach’s steady drumming, this is the sort of opening tune that draws the listener in, always the job of the opener. The next nine numbers keep attention high. The title tune, penned by Kesecker, features guest tabla player Zakir Hussain working with Burkert’s flute to great success.

The band’s version of Benny Golson’s classic, "Along Came Betty" is notable for the interchange between the two principals. Klobas and Kesecker work wonderfully together and the drum accents push them to greater heights. Burkert, again on tenor, captures the theme’s mood superbly. Zakir’s tabla sets the stage on Klobas’ "Z-Magic." The percussive exchanges between Kesecker and Zakir is riveting. The ethereal vibraphone opening to Kesecker’s "Blues for Johnny Rae" gives way to a jaunty Latin-tinged romp - a nuanced sort of a romp, but a romp nonetheless. "Pinot Noir" is mellow, and "Lasting Ways," the longest piece at 7:34, shifts through timbres.

"Five Scapes" is a showcase for vibraphones and bass and is the most mesmerizing piece on the disc. Kesecker sets up a hypnotic motif on which Klobas builds, with a dialogue between the players that makes one wonder where the big labels have been. This is simply brilliant music. Thom Bell’s "People Make The World Go ‘Round," previously recorded by everyone from Angela Bofill to Ron Carter and Freddie Hubbard, is given a spirited reading. The closing "Let It Rain" features Pat Klobas on rainstick with Hussain’s tabla and Burkert on both flute and baritone sax. It’s a fine finish and serves as bookend to the brilliant opener. A peek at the band’s website will reveal the richly impressive histories of individual band members. The music presented here represents the whole and the ensemble has one of the most interesting and enjoyable recordings to cross this desk in some time.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Klobas Kesecker Ensemble
  • CD Title: No Gravity
  • Genre: Other
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: KK Ensemble
  • Rating: Four Stars
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