Herbie, Miles and Me by Kenny Wright Experience – reviewed by Chris Mann

This is the fourth solo album from Baltimorean bass-player, tutor and composer Kenny Wright.

I’m a fan of bass-players, and always keen to hear a player who is new to me, so I spent a lot of time listening to “Herbie, Miles and Me”. Also, the title hints at Kenny’s jazz influences, so I was ready…

The opener Blue Tuesday has really got under my skin – in a good way. The bass swings nicely but it’s Jacob Yoffee’s yearning tenor sax that will haunt you. It’s an original tune and a strong melody. Things get funkier on another original composition, You And I, which has some high-register bass soloing in the style of the Braxton Brothers.

The pretty soprano saxophone of Kelly Shepherd takes centre stage on the gentle smooth jazz stepper, Satisfy My Love. This deserves a big audience – the song really takes you along for the ride. Dave Cosby’s guitar adds some nice flavour on the album’s only vocal, Stay In My Heart. It’s a smooth, midtempo dancer. Wright’s bass – solid as ever – steps back to give centre stage to the vocal and to some lovely work on guitar and percussion.

I love the ‘live’ feel on Hammerstein and Kern’s All The Things You Are. Yoffee’s alto soars powerfully on this song. The tasteful bass solo adds the finishing touch to a real jazz workout. That authentic jazz vibe continues on Five Or Six, where the shifting time signatures make you concentrate while the blazing soprano saxophone recalls some of Ronnie Laws’ more adventurous moments.

It’s the ‘live’ drum that instantly catches your attention on the dreamy trio number Something In Your Smile. Charlie Etzel’s delicate touch on piano is something to savour here – lovely. Another track worthy of smooth jazz/NAC airplay is the melodic 1964 with a soprano sax sound from David Smith that will invite comparisons with Marion Meadows, among others.

Bassment Groove, written by and featuring pianist Eliot Levine sounds instantly and eerily familiar. That flying bassline, dancing cymbals and a strident trumpet solo will please jazz fans – no doubt – and the ‘live’ feel which Wright captures on this CD is particularly strong here. Miles Davis fans will appreciate the grand and gorgeous treatment given to Blue In Green here. A piano and an upright bass are all that’s needed to tell the story. Wright allows himself plenty of room to stretch out at the end of this song.

The upright stays in place for the racing jazz trio number Outer Limits. This track is highly improvisational and would take a few plays to get fully into. I am more drawn to Wright’s sound on electric bass and the solid line he delivers on the classy Krystal shows why. He is a groove merchant who can lock in with a drummer and give the guitar, sax and piano space to shine. This is my favourite song here – beautiful. The tenth original composition Angela rounds out this varied and very enjoyable set. Jacob Yoffee again does all the right stuff on soprano sax while Wright’s funky bass keeps it all rolling along.

It’s a great pleasure to hear an album from an artist you don’t know and for the standard of composition, musicianship and production to be as high as it is here. It’s also refreshing for an accomplished bassist to front a band but step back and not turn the session into a “bass player’s album”.



Knee-Deep Records Producer – Kenny Wright