Bassist/composer Arthur Kell is yet another emerging jazz performer on the Fresh Sound/New Talent roster that deserves wider recognition. His huge tone, strong sense of self, and direct to the heart approach should appeal to a wide variety of listeners. The all-original music he presents on Traveller reflects his many expeditions to faraway lands, but supplies flavoring rather than the sole basis for this distinctly contemporary music. Tenor saxophonist Gorka Benitez and guitarist Steve Cardenas team up to reflect a style parallel to that of the Joe Lovano and John Scofield combine in the late '80s and early '90s. Solid melodic ideas, a demonstrated sense of team work, and a songlike approach identifies this music, as did the Lo-Sco bands. Kell is up in the mix for "I Believe Ya'" in a solid contemporary 4/4 jazz with a twist, shines on a somewhat sorrowful but wholly heartfelt homage to his mother "Mary Louise," and a popping modern Brazilian "Hermeto" -- for Hermeto Pascoal -- adds a dervish line alongside the flute work of Benitez. Inspired by a trip to and meal in Kyrgyzstan, "Djailo Fest" is a busy, loping but not jumpy tune, "Ijinna" is a remembrance of a journey through Niger, set up by a two-note bass into a clean feed of flowing unison tenor sax and guitar, and "Can Festis" is inspired by a castle in Spain with a slightly spiced yet contemporary rhythm. On the spiky side, "Crinkum Crankum" is as craggy edged, twisty and stop-start infused as the title suggests, while the quirky and curious "Lucy's Back" is about a clearly eccentric neighbor. In the spirit of alchemy "A Hand for Santiago" is a beautiful soul song where the sounds of Benitez and Cardenas coalesce supremely. Hopefully these two will work again in other contexts, as their simpatico styles mesh beautifully on every track. This is a promising portent of things to come for Kell and this lovely band of rising stars.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos