Gentle Giant of the Tenor is an appropriate title for this 2001 date because Bob Kindred is a relatively gentle tenor man. The East Coast saxophonist (who spent many years in Philadelphia before moving to New York) is a very melodic player, and he doesn't go out of his way to be aggressive. While the gentle Stan Getz is among Kindred's influences, Kindred doesn't fall into the cool jazz category. This is essentially a hard bop CD, and Kindred has a bigger tone than Getz, even though there are elements of Getz in his sound. Further, Kindred's phrasing also owes a lot to Ben Webster, who wasn't cool-toned but was quite lyrical. And the word lyrical certainly describes Kindred's performances on Gentle Giant of the Tenor, which contains a series of intimate duets with pianist Larry Willis. No bass or drums are heard on this CD; Kindred's tenor and Willis' acoustic piano are the only instruments, and that intimate setting serves them well on soulful, introspective performances of songs that range from Willis' haunting "Ethiopia" to Duke Ellington's "Warm Valley" and the standard "The Things We Did Last Summer." Kindred is especially captivating on Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count"; the tenor man beautifully captures the piece's sadness on his own expressive terms. Hearing how captivating Kindred's performances are on this CD, some listeners might wonder why he isn't better known in the jazz world and why he doesn't have a larger catalog. Unfortunately, lesser-known veterans like Kindred can have a hard time getting recorded; when it comes to straight-ahead bop, many jazz labels prefer either well-known veterans like Sonny Rollins and James Moody or "young lions" in Armani suits. But Willis obviously believes in Kindred, and he enjoys a consistently strong rapport with the saxman on this excellent CD.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson