Keshavan Maslak

Kenny Millions' Big Time

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When Keshavan Maslak changed his stage name to Kenny Millions about the time of this reissued date in 1981, he was synthesizing his Ukrainian-American roots, his love of free jazz (particularly Eric Dolphy), and continuing a sojourn that would eventually lead him from his native Detroit to Europe and back. This date hooks him up with the extraordinary Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg, fellow Michigander bassist John Lindberg, and ex-Ornette Coleman drummer Charles Moffett. The sound of Maslak/Millions is quite parallel to that of Arthur Blythe at the time, a lime flavored tone slightly sweetened by a lighthearted non-serious mindset, and a ribald comic relief that would become a trademark. No matter the attitude, there's seriously brilliant musicianship going on here that straddles the fence between the conventional and traditional or progressive and daring. The highlights are two expertly played, marvelous takes of the slinky Herbie Nichols standard "2300 Skidoo," taken at a slightly faster and refined tempo, respectively, than the original. Mengelberg is particularly in his element on a tune he has played and interpreted many times. "Mr. Moffett" is a real good swinger with a circular sax melody and a swinging Mengelberg. Everything is big to Maslak/Millions, as "Big Money, Cha Cha Cha" is angular and dramatic, "Big Time" a hard free bop with the Blythe harmonic content, "Big Heart" a golden ballad, and "You Left Your Big Shoe at My House" a raucous, circus like, bouncy teeter totter ride with funky oom pah pah spurred on by guest trombonist Ray Anderson. There are three additional tracks tacked onto the original sessions; the alternate take of "2300 Skidoo," the sliding swinger "Hypochristmutreefuzz" (could you please use that in a sentence?) and a 26-second studio chat. The trio, especially with the thoughtful depth of Lindberg's bass playing, lifts the saxophonist to a higher level, and accompanies him with a rare intelligence and substance. Maslak/Millions is quite a character, loves to have fun, emotionally stretches original lines of standards, and takes liberties few might attempt. He deserves to be heard on a wider universal level apart from his wildman image.

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