Kolker certainly has proper credentials, having studied with Joe Allard and David Liebman, and performed with Jeff Williams, Orange Then Blue, and most prominently, Ray Barretto. He has a sweet, energetic, tonal tenor sax sound, and uses soprano sax and bass clarinet on this debut CD. Trumpeter Tim Hagans is an excellent front line mate for Kolker, his lime-tinged brass meshes well. Pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Doug Weiss, and drummer Jeff Ballard are all energetic, tasteful, and trying new things. Kolker wrote six of the eight pieces, falling within the modern mainstream, some with an edge. "Drunken Waltz" is the most innovative, a distended rubato feel with Kolker on bass clarinet. "Nuance" borrows melody from "Skylark," a serene piece, Kolker on soprano, with Hays' solo featuring thick chordal impressions. "Off-Center" is just that, an unnervingly quirky head that leads to a more swinging, straight-up bridge, again led by Hays. The best pieces are boppish; the title track sports a bright horn-unison melody, while "Over Again" has Kolker (on soprano) and Hagans repeating a childlike simple, good swinging line to lustrous effect. "One for Joe" (assumedly Allard) is Kolker at his sweetest on tenor saxophone swinging comfortably, while the rhythm section does its job supporting. A most arresting treatment of "Embraceable You" is done in an off-kilter tango style, quite refreshing. An interpretation of Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys" is the lead story, an edited melody and a much more upbeat version that honestly is not true to the original, lacking complete enunciation. There's certainly much promise in Kolker's compositional ability. As an original voice, he's also getting there, and his excellent bandmates lift his artistry in many real and important ways.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos