Kenney Polson – Colors Of Brazil

February 26, 2021

Kenney Polson is a world class saxophonist and world traveler who has collaborated with many musicians from many countries. With his 2019 album for lovers only, Polson achieved notoriety, Jeff Becker writes, as “an accomplished crossover artist.”

Living in Rio de Janeiro for several years allowed him the opportunity to meet and collaborate with some of the city’s top tier musicians like Marinho Boffa, trumpeter Paulinho Trompete, and bassist Nico AssumpϚão. Polson himself brought his own musical sensibilities to the Brazilians and began to create something extraordinary. With his friends, percussionist Alejandro Lucini and bassist Leonardo Lucini, the idea for the album Colors of Brazil took flight. In addition to the Lucini brothers, Polson added guitars, percussion, bass, drums, brass, and harps. 

Polson himself moves effortlessly from soprano to alto to tenor to baritone saxophones along with clarinet, bass clarinet, and vibraphone. Clearly an underachiever.

The album kicks off with Aquarelo do Brazil (Colors of Brazil) by Ary Barosso. The rhythm section is anchored by the Lucinis on bass and drums. The music reflects the title in vibrant, textured hues. Polson’s alto, tenor and baritone sax work is sweet and soulful. Leni Stern turns in a fine guitar solo and the horn section of Noah Simpson (trumpet) and Kyle Molitor (trombone) are excellent.

Hipnotizado (Mesmerized) is an original from Kenney Polson himself. In addition to Polson on alto saxophone, Mariea Antionette is featured on harp along with an excellent horn section. Not only is the song beautifully performed, it is exquisitely written. Polson proves himself an amazing composer. And you just have to love the harp and alto sax together.

Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol’s Caravan is always amazing. Polson on alto sax is riotously supported by Nico Assumpcão on bass, Christian Oyens on drums, and the blistering horn section. Marinho Boffa gives us a beautifully rich and rowdy keyboard solo before handing off to Alessandre Carvalho’s guitar. Listen to this over and over and listen to all the parts. There are gems here. Polson is on fire.

Flor de Lis (Lily Flower) is the Djavan Caetano Viana classic and features Mitsuki Dazai and Dr. Osamu Kitajima on Koto. The Koto is the 13-stringed zither that is the national instrument of Japan and is used beautifully at the outset of the piece. Polson adds his alto and soprano saxes as well as clarinet and vibraphone. It is a joyful piece that is uplifting and energetic. The Lucini brothers are in full force here but it is Polson that takes your breath away.

Mariana is composed by bassist Nico AssumpϚão and features him in a smoking hot bass solo. Marinho Boffa offers masterful piano work behind it all and Polson limits himself to just the alto sax in lock-step work between sax and bass. A beautiful tune performed flawlessly.

The Iva Lins/Vitor Martins tune Leva e Traz (Give & Take) follows and brings back the kotos and the Lucinis in beautiful rapport with Polson’s saxes and clarinets. The give and take shapes into sweet dialogue between the horns and strings with that imaginative rhythm section behind it all.

Passeio de Bicicleta (Bicycle Ride) is a Toninho Horta piece. Antônio Maurício Horta de Melo is a Brazilian Jazz guitarist and vocalist and his lyricism shines through on this amazing treatment which focuses on Polson’s soprano saxophone. A lovely piece, Passeio de Bicicleta is opened by Boffa’s fine piano introduction before surrendering to Polson’s soprano. The mood is a little melancholy and a lot of beautiful.

 Joao Bosco and Aldir Blanc wrote Incompatibilidade de Genios (Incompatibility of Geniuses) and Polson takes ownership of it. Polson plays the soprano, alto, and baritone saxes with legato languidness. Azure McCall adds his scat and the wonderful Arietta Ward lays her vocalise on top. Nobody like ‘Etta Ward. But Polson soars above it all.

Obsessao (Obsession) contains beautiful piano work by Federico Pena with Polson’s soprano sax and clarinets. The drive and determination of the piece is offset by the ethereal wandering of the Dazai koto. Tom Laguna’s guitar works well beside the koto. Pay attention to the Lucini brothers on bass and drums.

Kenny Polson wraps up the album with  Luz do Sol (Sun Light) by Caetano Veloso, who was part of the Brazilian musical movement Tropicalismo, which encompassed theatre, poetry and music in the 1960s. The lyrical and luscious song is highlighted by Todd Simon’s excellent keyboards and the warm alto sax of Polson. It is a splendid conclusion to a splendid album.

Colors of Brazil is a remarkable album by a sublime artist. Kenney Polson brings his considerable talents and varied woodwinds to bear in an album that shines his unique light on the colorful music of Brazil. It is an album worthy of repeated listening, soaking in the beauty every time.

~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl

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