Kevin Fort Hits Red Gold

kevin_fortBy George Halas

With Red Gold, Kevin Fort delivers a strong, consistent album of originals and standards that will have fans of piano jazz that stays true to bebop, while incorporating modern elements, considering a trip to the Windy City.

Fort is a Chicago-based jazz pianist, composer, and arranger who has worked with such notable musicians as John Clayton, Bill Watrous, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Bergeron, and Rick Baptist.  For this recording, he has assembled a top-notch trio that includes Doug Hayes playing bass and drummer John Deitmeyer.

The album has a pleasing pace that enables Fort and company to explore a number of emotional soundscapes. The band kicks the energy up a couple of notches on Irving Berlin’s I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm, flawlessly and smoothly executing from start to finish while showcasing Fort’s technical brilliance as well as a right-on-the-money solo by Hayes. The Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley composition, Cheer Up, Charlie, follows as Fort, et al, gently slow the tempo and guide the listener into a relaxing sonic easy chair.

The trio’s best work comes on the Fort originals. As a composer, he writes in a way that provides plenty of room for Hayes and Deitmeyer to contribute enthusiastically to the melody and the tempo. Fort’s playing is equally energized and the result is that the originals are the highlights of the album. The title piece, Red Gold, is an up tempo expression of joy – you can almost see Fort having fun playing this one – and Hayes contributes a melodic bass solo that adds another dimension to the composition. Dietmeyer keeps his solo work comfortably within the structure and his choices resulting in perfect touches.

Coastin’ In is another Fort original that features a combination of a unique melody with a high-energy, take no prisoners approach and satisfying contributions from Hayes and Deitmeyer. Fort initially lays back then builds the tempo in a way that you don’t sense it, until you feel your toes tapping or fingers snapping. Another excellent Hayes solo gives way to Fort and Dietmeyer trading fours in a way that highlights their excellent chemistry and Dietmeyer’s ability to apply very tasteful rhythmic flourishes without going over the top.

In many ways, Fort saves the best for last with Whirled and Whirled Above, a composition with a variety of textures and nuance. He uses Hayes to set a unique tone and follows with what is arguably his best playing on the album. Fort is one of those rare piano players who can temper his technical brilliance in the service of the composition, but it is not hard to hear that his playing is something special.

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