"...Sun does not force the action."
Richard Kamins at Step Tempest wrote a thoughtful review of Trio. Read the full text below:
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2018
Two Masters at Play, One Trio Exploring
Kevin Sun may be recognizable from his work with the quartets Great on Paper (cd review here) or Earprint (reviewed here) or his byline as a transcriber of several of Ethan Iverson's interviews. The Harvard/New England Conservatory graduate (he was the first to complete the schools' combined 5-year degree program) studied composition with Miguel Zenón and John Hollenbeck and has written on his blog ("A Horizontal Search") an understanding of both the history and forward motion in jazz. "Trio | Kevin Sun" (Endectomorph Music) is his debut recording as a leader. Like the best saxophone trio recordings (Sonny Rollins's "Way Out West" and "Freedom Suite", Joe Henderson's "The State of the Tenor Vols. 1 & 2", Bernie McGann's "Bundeena"), this music works because it is a collaboration of Sun (tenor saxophone, c-melody saxophone, clarinet) with the impressive rhythm section of bassist Walter Stinson (Adam O'Farrill Quartet) and drummer Matt Honor (Cowboys & Frenchmen, Cat Toren).
"Trio" contains a lot of music (72 minutes), is composed of most original works (11 Sun tunes, one standard, and two group pieces), and goes in myriad directions. Opening with "Tranaccidentation", one immediately hears how the three musicians listen closely to each other, how Sun does not force the action and has a subtle, softer, tone on tenor sax. In fact, it's Stinson and Honor who push the piece forward in the manner of bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Steve McCall of Trio Air. Sun moves to clarinet on the next track "Loading Screen", the angular melody paired with the clanging percussion and bass counterpoint. The C-melody saxophone shows up twice, first in the mysterious group piece "One Never Knows Now" (Stinson's impressive bowing underpinning the improvisations) and then on the standard "All of Me" - Sun's softer approach on the saxophone leans more towards Lester Young yet the brisk tempo and his delightful solo has a good dollop of Sonny Rollins in it.
Several pieces contain great power. "Announcements" is a frisky romp that drives for the entire 2:13 while "Misanthrope" has a "heavy metal" feel at the open, Nirvana-like with bleating saxophone and crushing drums. "Air Purifier", at nearly 12 minutes, is the longest track and goes through a number of changes in tempo and dynamics, with Sun moving from clarinet to tenor after the opening section. There's a powerful bass and drum conversation before the piece slows again; Sun goes back to clarinet, plays a somber melody, and the bassist takes the lead. The somber tone lasts through the close of the piece.
There is so much to explore on "Trio | Kevin Sun" and I know hard it can be sitting through a long program. But this music is worth the time and effort. The compositions are adventurous, the skill, effort, and ideas of the musicians stand out, and one wishes to be in the audience when they explore these pieces. Go to thekevinsun.com/p/upcoming.html to find out when this Trio is playing near you - this is "alive" music and should be seen and heard.