reviews —

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 8:09 PM
Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour
Eric W. Saeger, The Hippo

"Lots of buzz surrounds this California-born jazz saxophonist. This, his third album as a leader, displays a rare gift for interpreting bop with such depth it´s like getting fitted for a hearing aid. You could hear a pin drop between his phrases, which often finish off with a casual trilling that´s as warm as the smooth compositions he´s put together with this quintet, which also features the well-rounded talents of pianist Mike Eckroth and guitarist Daisuke Abe, both of whom receive enough solo spaces so as to not sway the focus from Shanker´s sax. The signature move within these tunes is a straightforward, confident march of quarter-notes of various modalities. Amazingly clear voice here. A+ — Eric W. Saeger"
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Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 8:08 PM
Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour
Jazz Weekly

"Kenny Shanker has a rich and full sound on his alto sax as he brings some vintage hard bop to the table with some originals. Teamed with Mike Eckroth/p, Daisuke Abe/g, Yoshi Waki/b and Brian Fishler/dr, he drives with an upbeat "Kottinger Park" gets bluesy with Eckroth´s striding ivories on "Saturday, 2 am" and bops with hip delight to Waki´s pulsating bass on "Satin Ribbons." His soprano sax glides with an easy cadence on "Cascading Lights" and snaps to Fishler´s high hat on the crisp "Lyra." His tone is warm and lyrical, able to milk a passage during ""Spring Flowers" and the moody "Cake Batter." Impressive foray!"
Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 8:07 PM
Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour
Debbie Burke

"Shanker's skilled approach to the upper and lower registers alike demonstrates a symbiosis with (and affection for) his alto. With this CD, Kenny proves he is versatile, flexible and supple, and his ace musicians know how to captivate listeners."
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Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 8:06 PM
Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour
Woodrow Wilkins, The Jazz Writer

"It´s straight-ahead jazz, but with enough melodic influences to work for the masses who tend to shy away from things that aren´t catchy.

Shanker plays the alto on the opener, "Kottinger Park." It´s a high-energy, fun romp. The leader plays with passion, exploring the range of his instrument, with powerful cohesion among his accompanists.

Then there´s the aptly titled "Bobblehead." The pace, the fun, the joy this song inspires will likely have many a listener bobbing her head. Finger snapping and toe tapping follow suit. Some might want to get up and dance. It´s just an all-around feel good song.

Shanker resides in New York City."
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Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 8:05 PM
Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour
Phil Freeman, Stereogum

"Alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker is joined by his longtime live band: pianist Mike Eckroth, guitarist Daisuke Abe, bassist Yoshi Waki, and drummer Brian Fishler, most of whom played on both of his previous releases. Shanker writes all the tunes, which are melodic and swinging. This is a solid release by a group of young players finding their voices together.'
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Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 8:04 PM
Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour
Chris Spector, Midwest Record

"All the hip insider cats know who this sax man is and it´s time you found out as well. Playing a mixture of straight ahead bop, he knows how to blow up a storm and really give your ears a work out with his zeal. A hard hitting cat that knows how to layout and lay back as well, he gives out that tasty kind of stuff that keeps you coming back for more. Well done."
Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 8:00 PM
Kenny Shanker - The Witching Hour
Ryan Meagher, The Jazz Scene

"I have known Kenny for close to twenty years, going back to our teenage years in the Bay Area. He has been a monster player since we were in high school and I was pleased to see that he is still making great music in New York City. The music on The Witching Hour could be loosely defined as modern straight-ahead, and the caliber of musicianship is really high. There are a number of tunes and solos that deserve your ear."
Monday, May 5th, 2014 10:02 AM
Kenny Shanker - Action City
Lucid Culture

"Saxophonist Kenny Shanker Nails an Edgy NYC Vibe

Lots of vivid, frequently edgy, tuneful straight-up New York portraiture on alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker´s new Posi-Tone album Action City with Mike Eckroth on piano, Daisuke Abe on guitar, Yoshi Waki on bass and Brian Fishler on drums.

Everything here centers around a tight piano/sax/bass/drums pulse. The first tune, Times Square is an interesting one – it seems to offer some shelter from the bustling rush hour crowd outside, Eckroth spinning an intricately enticing web away from the driving latin groove until Shanker brings it back with a similarly swirling but more angst-fueled intensity. It paints a good picture, albeit without the sketchy life-size Hello Kittys.

Another Morning is all about urbane chillout swing, Shanker´s carefree vibrato sailing over Eckroth´s precise, purposeful chords and spacious tradeoffs with the drums. This seems to portray the kind of stainless steel counter place where they break out the martinis starting at around noon.
Summer Siesta is a deliciously catchy, biting cha-cha, and not the least bit sleepy. The title track is a brisk stroll, everybody in the band occasionally stepping out of time as we do from time to time on a busy sidewalk: Eckroth´s bluesy, stride-inspired solo is especially choice. Punch isn´t the smackdown you might expect, but a very attractive slow soul groove, Eckroth firing off some tasty blues/gospel licks. Donald Fagen would kill to have written this"
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Monday, May 5th, 2014 10:01 AM
Kenny Shanker - Action City
Brent Black, Bop n Jazz

"Kenny Shanker's Action City is ridiculously good!

Shanker's sophomore release on the acclaimed Posi-Tone label shows an exponential growth for an artist whose musical stock should be an arrow pointing straight up! This quintet can swing like a beast and given the fact that Action City boasts all original compositions, Kenny Shanker is indeed a rising star!

The band is A list and his regular rhythm section to boot so the chemistry leaps from your speakers. A gifted and intense lyrical surgeon, Kenny Shanker's tone has grown yet never overshadows this amazing collective. Pianist Mike Eckroth, bassist Yoshi Waki and drummer Brian Fishler are all working from the same page of the Shanker harmonic playbook. An old fashioned straight ahead blowing session with contemporary compositions, it doesn't get much better than this. While the percussive and more Latin influenced "Summer Siesta" smolders, the gorgeous ballad "Another Morning" may just be the hidden gem of the release.

Action City has surprises for everyone and is easily one of the best for 2014."
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Monday, May 5th, 2014 9:58 AM
Kenny Shanker - Action City
S. Victor Aaron, Something Else Reviews

"It´s fairly uncommon for a mainstream jazz record to contain nothing but originals, especially since playing standards seem nearly as important to jazz as being able to swing. Perhaps it´s because so few jazz musicians are strong enough composers to fill an entire album of their songs. That may or may not be the case, but it´s definitely not the case for saxophonist Kenny Shanker.

Shanker´s been playing the sax since he was ten years old, but he has a flair for writing tunes, too. The dozen tunes for his second album Action City are all his, and they´re all good.

With a solid base rhythm section of Brian Fishler (drums), Mike Eckroth (piano) and Yoshi Waki (bass), Shanker mixes things up with guest instrumentation from the guitar of Daisuke Abe, and also his own instrumentation: he plays both alto and soprano saxes with equal proficiency, depending on the tune. Shanker´s style sometimes evokes Joe Henderson, sometimes Kenny Garrett, sometimes Cannonball Adderley, but all with his own, refined twists to their styles.

Ultimately, it´s Shanker´s songs that make Action City a gratifying listen from start to finish; he avoids the sameness syndrome by varying the styles from smooth swings ("Times Square", "Action City"), to breezy Brazilian flourishes ("Marble Hill, "Summer Siesta"), to searing bebop ("The Tortoise And The Hare") to tender ballads ("Riverbank At Dawn") to even pop shuffles ("Punch", "Snow Paws"). Most of these songs contain interesting chord changes, usually at the bridge, a tipoff that Shanker is not your ordinary composer."
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Monday, May 5th, 2014 9:56 AM
Kenny Shanker - Action City
Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz

"The decision to fill the album with Shanker's original compositions, rather than mix in a few songbook standards, works well. He's a strong writer, the tunes are in the straight-ahead tradition but with a freshness and a contemporary edge. Action City moves things on from Shanker's debut, offering further proof of his development as an artist and writer."
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Monday, May 5th, 2014 9:54 AM
Kenny Shanker - Action City
Nick Bewsey, Icon

"This album from New York-based saxophonist Kenny Shanker, is the kind of unpretentious straight-ahead jazz that goes down easy. Shanker´s strong, all-original set hearkens back to the Prestige-era´s classic quintets— tight melodies and urbane solos are the rule here and it´s a fine combination. Action City is highlighted by "Times Square," defined by its strong melody and Jazz Crusaders-style groove. "Another Morning" pops with an astute sense of swing, while "Summer Siesta" clicks with a breezy flavor. The band works well together, but pianist Mike Eckroth is a dazzler in the tradition of a young Hank Jones or Tommy Flanagan, and together Shanker and he make these tunes bounce. Stick around for the enticing ballad, "Riverbank at Dawn," and the closer, "Snow Paws"—its pop contours fade away to reveal Shanker´s gift at composing music that´s sure to make your day."
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Monday, May 5th, 2014 9:52 AM
Kenny Shanker - Action City
The Jazz Page

"Saxophonist Kenny Shanker returns with an outstanding follow-up to his debut effort. Action City is quite fitting of the name for this effort and a great showcase of Shanker´s wonderful tone. The project is also an outstanding exposition of the writing chops that won the California native an ASCAP award for composition in recent years. The tunes are a nice blend of uptempo swing and bluesy ballads, and everything in-between. A fantastic lineup of players on this effort include Mike Eckroth on piano, Daisuke Abe on guitar, Brian Fishler on drums and Yoshi Waki on bass. The playing is tight and on the mark all the way through and Shanker is a truly talented musician worth checking out."
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Monday, May 5th, 2014 9:50 AM
Kenny Shanker - Action City
Midwest Record

"Playing sax like he was born to do it, Shanker shows what it means to have the right stuff as he kicks it out in fine style on this straight ahead set of killer jazz. A real player that will reward real listening ears, this is a dandy date to check out and enjoy. A winner throughout."
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Monday, May 5th, 2014 9:48 AM
Kenny Shanker - Action City
Dusty Groove

"Only the second album as a leader from altoist Kenny Shanker – and already a great leap forward! The record features all original material penned by Shanker – really wonderful tunes that bring a freshness to the album right from the get-go, and which hold up strongly throughout! Instrumentation is from a core quintet – with Mike Eckroth on piano and Daisuke Abe on guitar – but some numbers have added percussion, which helps create a rhythmic complexity that really matches Kenny's fluid colors and tones on the alto!"
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Monday, May 5th, 2014 9:46 AM
Kenny Shanker - Action City
Bob Bernotas, Just Jazz

"Alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker´s second CD as a leader — a quintet session, with occasional guests — is bright, tuneful, and overflowing with vitality. This program of twelve Shanker originals never stops swinging and never ceases to delight and engage the listener. This is one talented player and writer to watch very closely."
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Thursday, May 10th, 2012 12:13 AM
Kenny Shanker - Steppin' Up
Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times

"Don´t be fooled by the pleasant opener "Winter Rain." Alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker abruptly shifts gears on the next tune, "Fifth and Berry," and burns with boppish abandon alongside guitarist Lage Lund and pianist Art Hirahara, both of whom turn in sizzling solos. Shanker strikes a more lyrical pose on the waltz-time "Home Sweet Home," the restful ballad "Sarah" and a sublime reading of Leonard Bernstein´s moving anthem "Somewhere.""
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Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 12:13 AM
Kenny Shanker - Steppin' Up
Brent Black, Critical Jazz

"There are some artists that are a pure joy to discover without the slightest pre-conceived notions that come from outside influences and Kenny Shanker is one such artist. Originally recorded in 2009 but taking two and one half years for release has proven well worth the wait.

Kenny Shanker's debut release for Posi-Tone is on the cutting edge of a more dynamic approach to straight ahead jazz. At times lingering in the hard bop outer reaches while at other times approaching an edgy fusion sound from the late 70's, Shanker is developing a unique artistic voice and is certainly a name to remember. As a soloist Shanker is a lyrical gifted player with a keen sense of harmonic development.

There is an intriguing zen like less is more approach to this release. Notes are not wasted and melodic lines are for the most part clean and straight ahead. Kenny Shanker is finding his own niche and has the musical foresight to know when to push forward and more appropriately when to reel it in, a gift that is hard to teach. Steppin´ Up is a first rate debut release, a captivating ebb and flow as Shanker makes his own musical identity known. A rock solid offering full of depth and texture. Kenny Shanker is destined to become a formidable force in the world of straight ahead jazz!"
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Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 12:13 AM
Kenny Shanker - Steppin' Up
Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz

"Young alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker recorded his debut album as a leader, Steppin' Up, in April 2009 but it's taken almost two-and-a-half years for it to be released. It's a shame that it has stayed in the vaults for so long, for Shanker's melodic and accessible brand of straight-ahead jazz is immediately enjoyable, with enough twists and turns to reward repeated listening.

Shanker wrote all but one of Steppin' Up's ten pieces, possessing a knack for crafting tunes that mix an easy, engaging, melodic center with something a little deeper and more complex. Shanker can blow, but has the maturity and musical awareness to realize that his melodies often work best when he keeps things simple. The resulting album is impressive and hints strongly that Shanker is a player to watch."
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Monday, May 7th, 2012 12:13 AM
Kenny Shanker - Steppin' Up
Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz

"It took Shanker eight post-college years to step out and record this debut, and the album aged on the shelves for another two-plus years, but it was worth the wait. Steppin' Up signals the arrival of another unique and promising saxophone personality in the ever-impressive Posi-Tone stable."
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Sunday, May 6th, 2012 12:13 AM
Kenny Shanker - Steppin' Up
Richard Kamins, Step Tempest

"Shanker's alto saxophone playing is impressive for the way he builds his solos, his warm tone and lively engagement with the band.

Thanks to the fact that my new job has me in the car 5 days a week, I have been listening to most of my music "on the road." Steppin' Up sounds great with the windows down driving the back roads, the music washing over me like a friendly rainstorm. Wherever you decide to listen to Kenny Shanker's debut CD, you'll enjoy the sonic ride."
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Saturday, May 5th, 2012 12:13 AM
Kenny Shanker - Steppin' Up
Bob Bernotas, Just Jazz

"This new quintet CD by alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker showcases his bright tone, imaginative improvisations, and formidable writing talents. Shanker´s nine original compositions are appealing and memorable on this thoroughly enjoyable debut release that promises many more fine things to come. "
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Friday, May 4th, 2012 12:13 AM
Kenny Shanker - Steppin' Up
The Jazz Breakfast

"Shanker writes all the tunes with the exception of the closer, Lenny Bernstein´s Somewhere, and he has a nice full and fruity sound on alto. Listen to him – and the band as a whole – at a rolling boil on Fifth And Berry, and developing some forceful lyricism on Rhapsody.

Really good recording sound, too, with the subtlety of Shanker´s timbre particularly lovely on Sarah."
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Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 12:13 AM
Kenny Shanker - Steppin' Up
by: John Barron, The Jazz Word

"Steppin' Up is a powerhouse set of aggressive jazz from New York-based alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker. A commanding soloist who draws from a wide range of influence, Shanker moves easily from contemporary, modal-based ideas to full-throttle, energized swing on this debut release, recorded in 2009. His challenging compositions maintain a listener friendly appeal with lyrical themes and tight, straightforward grooves. "
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Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 7:50 PM
Kenny Shanker - Steppin' Up
Review by: Sax Shed

"Alto saxophonist and relative newcomer Kenny Shanker has recently released his inaugural CD "Steppin´ Up" on Posi-Tone Records. His sound is clear, lines are melodic and he has surrounded himself with a cast of outstanding musicians. The recording is busting at the seams with no less than 10 compelling tracks. Somewhere around 2:00 into Fifth and Berry and then again during Quirk I became a fan of Kenny Shanker´s playing. His sound shimmers with clarity, bright yet full of life."
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Tuesday, May 1st, 2012 9:12 AM
Kenny Shanker - Steppin' Up
Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen

"On his hard-hitting debut CD, alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker shows off a big, ripe sound that is consistently put into service during persuasive, committed solos — Shanker has a lot of bop under his fingers and has no problems revving up to top gear when he improvises. Steppin´ Up clearly conveys the heat and power of Shanker´s music."
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