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Citizen Kain by Dave Kain Group

The Dave Kain Group’s 1st recording, Citizen Tain, is a thoroughly enjoyable listen and is particularly well-conceived for a young artists’ debut. The tunes (all written by Kain) and playing have a connected-ness that is sometimes lacking on debut recordings where artists often feel obligated to cram everything they’ve learned into the music, whether it suits the material or not. The vibe on "Citizen" is more relaxed. What it lacks in urgency it more than makes up for in mindfulness. It’s a welcome trade-off.

Kain’s strengths are mainly in his writing. The best tunes on the CD are marked by a heady non-chalance, wit, or lightness: a skippy-ing-ness. He’s got a knack for conjuring natural, swinging, in-the-pocket gestures that belie the more sophisticated harmonies, rhythms, and structures that house them. Highlights in this vein are the tracks "Eleven", "Trickery", and "Another Take". These tunes occasionally follow an impulse to venture off into the occasional odd form or meter (5/4) but still retain their accessibility and groove. Any modern straight-ahead jazz artist could incorporate these tunes into their set-list and have fun playing on them.

The players in Kain’s group are all seasoned New York City musicians who occasionally outshine the already excellent material they’ve been given to interpret. Matt Garrison (tenor saxophone), Jerry McDonald (bass), and Rick Donato (drums) have been playing together as a group with Kain for a few years and the familiarity and connection between the personalities elevate the music. Garrison is particularly impressive, being featured on all of the tunes. Much of his playing here mirrors Kain’s compositional style: a deceptively easy-going veneer and the ability to run with small gestures. Even more so than in Kain’s melodies, Garrison has the ability to run with small phrases and gestures in his solos and follows them where they may lead, instead of dropping the ball for any new idea that may come along. In this manner he often creates larger and more interesting phrases. In tone and style his playing often falls into an interesting cross-section of Sonny Rollins and Joshua Redman. The tone of most of the record is relaxed, but here and there Garrison steps it up and approaches a more ‘burning’ atmosphere. Keep an eye out for this boy. He got game. The rhythm section is also on top of the material and is particularly supportive of the soloists. Kain and Garrison have very different approaches and feels, so McDonald and Donato switch gears swiftly to compliment the different styles. They alternate between just the right balance of push and support and are both excellent soloists as well.

Kain’s tone on his guitar (looks like an ES335 on the CD artwork) throughout the recording is consistently warm and clean and an excellent compliment to Garrison’s sound. His comping, while not too harmonically adventurous, gets the job done and is rhythmically sensitive to the rest of the band. Yet, Kain’s playing is not quite up to speed with his compositional ability. At times you can hear his hands running just behind his mind. You can hear him reach for the prize and just miss. But with this happening only on occasion, it’s easy to assume this will be taken care of in the coming years. I’d liken Citizen Kain (will Jeff Watts forgive him?) to one of the better, ‘true-indie’ entries in the Sundance Film Festival in a parallel jazz festival. Yeah, it may have some rough edges and flaws, but it’s still better than 98% of the crap comin’ out of "Hollywould" (ie: Universal, Sony, etc.... ). And the audience award goes to....

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Dave Kain Group
  • CD Title: Citizen Kain
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Independent
  • Tracks: Eleven, Trickery, The Tear, Another Take, 27 Measures, A Moment In Time, Confluence, Mr. Rhoads
  • Musicians: Dave Kain (Guitar), Matt Garrison (Tenor Saxophone), Jerry McDonald (Bass), Rick Donato (Drums)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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