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  • Jonathan Widran


It’s wonderfully serendipitous that the same year the family of Clifford Jordan unearths and releases a half century the shelf album (Drink Plenty Water) from the legendary saxophonist, his longtime pianist Kevin O’Connell – who spent six years in Jordan’s quartet – finally emerges as a recording artist and quartet leader after decades spinning straight ahead ivory magic in NYC and Chicago for countless greats (Billy Hart, Philly Joe Jones, Junior Cook, Andy Bey, Rob Parton Big Band) and in a variety of eclectic ensembles.

On Hot New York Minutes, his stirring debut leading the Kevin O’Connell Quartet – an outfit featuring saxophonist Adam Brenner, bassist Paul Gill and drummer Mark Taylor – the pianist pays homage to his late colleague quickly, following a follows a hard jamming frolic through Cedar Walton’s “Newest Blues” with the emphatically funky and percussive, fast swinging “One for Cliff,” initially stepping back in a harmony role to let Brenner strut his wildly improvisational, Jordanesque stuff before taking over and letting his celebratory emotions out with one of his trademark, truly surreal piano solos.

These two exciting tracks set the tone of a collection that includes originals from O’Connell (including the reflective smoky blues of “Blue Seven”) and Brenner (the brightly burning “Boo Deh Dah”) amidst imaginative reworkings of somewhat obscure pieces by Tadd Dameron and Bill Lee, whose sweetly lyrical “A Thought” makes for a graceful closer to a rhythmically diverse set. Now that the artist in O’Connell is finally unleashed, here’s hoping this quartet’s just getting warmed up for many more adventures in the future.


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