At a young age saxophonist Jan Kus
was a promising saxophonist, a scholarship from the Slovenian Ministry of
Culture to study at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, studies which included
tours of Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, and The
Netherlands, with other young European jazz players. In 2012, Kus crossed the
Atlantic to pursue his Masters, studying under saxophonist Antonio Hart at the
Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, where he received the Jimmy
Heath Award for promising wind players.
Fast forward and 2016 brought the release of his first full-length offering as
a leader, Faith is an amalgamation of a globally transcendent sound, all
rooted in the modern jazz idiom, self-produced it gives us an opportunity to
see the fully developed creativity of Kus.Joined by like-minded compadres, Faith features Jan Kus on tenor and
soprano saxophones, Sean Fitzpatrick on piano and Fender Rhodes, double bassist
Dan Martinez and drummer Joel Mateo.
Joined by Antonio Hart, electric guitarist Rafal Sarnecki and vocalist Mélanie
JB Charles, who has been popping up on quite a few of the emerging millennial jazz
recordings, the result is a tight, connected listen with an international
Mentor Hart's focused alto and Kus' brash full bodied tenor make a track like
"Emptiness," feel anything but empty.The two harmonize the melody with great result, building the intensity
with consequential elongated lines build and fervor the improvisations into a
fury of sound.Together they are an
eloquent foil for one another.
"Rhythm A Ning," is given a quartet treatment with Alex Sipiagin's trumpet and Kus' tenor blazing
the path for a dazzling re-imagining of Thelonious Monk's most active be-bop
melody, Fitzpatrick's piano and Mateo's drums created a tension and release of
for Martinez's bass to augment the tune into a devising Latin rhythm, with tenor
and trumpet colorizing the melody atop.Quick paced and flowing lines, show the prowess of this young lion who I
might add has an amazing sense of rhythm, not just blowing.
As I mentioned earlier, I have been hearing a lot of Charles as a guest
artist.Her voice is languid and
seasoned, with the right amount of uniqueness to immediately recognize her on a
recording.Using her voice as an
instrument, she vocalizes with Kus' saxophone on the track "Strength,"
the two complement each other like a pair of instrumentalists.Alternatively, "I'm Just a Little
Person," (which I might add there are two versions) is a ballad setting that
is treated gently and spaciously which brings forth the breathy beauty in
Charles voice and the sustain and control in Kus’ tenor, the true salt of any
vocalist and I might saxophonist is how they approach a ballad and both rise to
the task with maturity and fluency. On
the alternate take, Kus this time on soprano sax opening the tune with an open
approach as the drums and bass spaciously create a loping feel of longing in a
nice complimentary take and the trio creates their own unique version that is
different than the vocal take, but still just as pleasing.
"Neófito," is a muscular
tune, and I must say, though it was hard to choose, it is the one I keep going
back to as my favorite.Complex ideas
and textures, laced with heavy Latin feels gives this tune a distinctly modern
vibe that again shows off Kus’ very international influenced sound.
Overall, Faith is an amazing first
effort – if this is what we can expect from Kus, then the future truly is
bright.This young saxophonist has
seemingly endless dexterity, masterful control of his breath and a warm round
sound that is miles ahead of his years on this earth.He is one I will definitely watch with an eye
towards the future.I now can see why he
was recognized at such a fledgling age for his prowess and promise. Well done,
Track Listing: Disconnect; Emptiness; One for the Band; Aqui; One for the
Band--Jan's Story; I'm Just a Little Person; One for the Band--Sean's Story;
Rhythm A Ning; Strength; One for the Band--Dan's Story; Neófito; Faith; I'm
Just a Little Person (trio version).
Personnel: Jan Kus: tenor saxophone,
soprano saxophone; Sean Fitzpatrick: piano, Fender Rhodes; Dan Martinez: double
bass; Joel Mateo: drums; Mélanie JB Charles: vocals; Antonio Hart: alto
saxophone; Alex Sipiagin: trumpet; Carlos Maldonado: percussion; Rafal
Sarnecki: electric gutar; Ziga Murko: electronics.