Don't Blink

Ben Kono Group

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"When the short form ventures give way to the more expansive and patiently crafted soundscapes, Kono moves effortlessly among an entire palette of woodwind instruments, crafting elegant melodies and clear, economical improvisations. And although this recording showcases a wide variety of styles, from that of “Smoky Madtom Hoedown”—part Béla Fleck and part Steps Ahead—to the more straight ahead tenor-infused modal swinger “Tipping Point,” to the hard driving and panoramic “River of Fire,” all of the selections fall neatly into the overall voice and vibe of the album.

The instrumental performances on Don’t Blink are uniformly excellent within a warm blend of effortlessly rendered grooves, and adventurous though understated harmonic explorations. The solo passages are concise and perfectly proportioned to serve the overall ends of the compositions. The result is a beautifully crafted and earnestly presented work of art."

--College Music Symposium 7/10/2019

"...even without knowing the inspiration for each song, "Don't Blink" is filled with attractive melodies, impressive solos, fine interaction, and a mature yet adventurous attitude of on the part of Ben Kono and the ensemble. There are many of us who believe that the half-steps forward and full steps backward taken by the last two Presidential administrations (with the support of the Senate and the House of Representatives) have not come close to solving the issues inherent in the song titles. But, listener, keep an open mind when approaching this album - the rewards are many."

--Richard Kamins, Step Tempest 5/23/2019

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Crossing

Ben Kono Group

"Multi-instrumentalist Ben Kono...is a consummate sideman, known for his contributions to some of the hipper New York big bands and his dazzling dexterity on a host of wind instruments, but on Crossing, his debut as a leader, he stands on his own merits as a composer and stylist. Joined by Henry Hey (keyboards), Pete McCann (guitars) and John Hollenbeck (drums), with Heather Laws (voice, French horn), the date boasts hard-hitting tracks with impressive blowing. Standouts include the epic “Paradise in Manzanar” featuring Kono’s compelling English horn, the funky “Rice” with its dense but never cluttered textures and the striking tenor solo on the title track, which grows from a small, three-note cell into a monolithic edifice."--Tom Greenland The New York City Jazz Record, March 2011

"This potent sextet outing by composer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Kono unfolds like separate chapters of a novel, each revealing something about it's author. The opening "Castles and Daffodils," reflecting Kono's interest in modern conservatory music, finds him overdubbing a latticework pattern of oboe, English horn, flute and clarinet before drummer John Hollenbeck, bassist John Hébert, keyboardist Henry Hey and guitarist Pete McCann enter the fray. Heather Laws' ethereal wordless vocals add to the evocative nature of this stirring piece, which is dedicated to the composer's late father. On the 5/4 swinger "Common Ground," Kono switches to tenor sax and channels Michael Brecker, while "Rice" has him soaring on flute over Hollenbeck's insistent drum-'n'-bass groove. The dramatic "Paradise in Manzanar," a somber reflection on the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, is a through-composed suite. Featuring the leader on English horn, the work resolves on an energized note of hope."--Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times, April 2011

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