The Texas-born, New York-based tenor saxophonist Stan Killian is the latest in a long line of saxophonists blessed with the legendary Texas Tenor sound from Arnett Cobb and James Clay to Wilton Felder and Illinois Jacquet; all master hornsmen who played with a big-toned, bravura sound of wide open spaces that covers the blues, the bayou, bop, the past, and the present.
A seasoned professional, Killian has gigged with many of today s brightest stars including Luis Perdomo, Antonio Sanchez, Gene Jackson, Eric Revis, Mike Moreno, Ben Monder, and Scott Colley. Killian steps into the spotlight as a leader on this aurally auspicious Sunnyside debut, Unified.
While writing the music for this album, I focused on two ideas, Killian says. First, instead of being concerned with composing intellectually difficult music for my band for the sake of being hip, I sought simply to write the most beautiful melodies I could imagine. Secondly, I wanted to unite my seemingly disparate influences into a program of what my idea of modern jazz is: the feel of deep swing with combined melodic voices, informed by the various jazz languages.
Killian s fluid yet muscular tenor tone is supported by two impressive combos consisting of bassists Bryan Copeland and Corcoran Holt, pianist Benito Gonzalez, drummers Darrell Green and McClenty Hunter. Also making appearances on the disc are some special guests: trumpeters Roy Hargrove and Jeremy Pelt and alto saxophonist David Binney. I chose these particular guest artists ... not simply because they are three of the most famous modern jazz players/composers on the scene today, but because they personally represent an individual vibe which, regardless of where critics put them on the proverbial jazz spectrum, is at once modern and traditional, Killian says. From this idea, comes the title track, Unified.
The six other tracks all composed by the leader, except for the spirited, Latin-tinged number Elvin s Sight, written by the Venezuelan pianist Gonzalez in honor of the great drummer Elvin Jones bop and weave with a modern, neo-classic vibe. Twin Dark Mirrors is Killian s 4/4, dark and princely shout out to Miles Davis and his collaborations with Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter. Center is an upbeat, unconventionally structured number in a 5/4 time signature, contrasted by the swing-at-the-speed-of-sound, angular modal track Isosceles and the waltzy Window of Time. The driving, Blue Note era-like closing tune, Eternal Return, remarkably, is Killian s first composition.