Kengchakaj Kengkarnka

Lak Lan
(Next Level)

Lak Lan, Bangkok-born, New York-based pianist Kengchakaj Kengkarnka’s debut recording of original compositions, seeks to address if not resolve the bandleader’s multiple—perhaps conflicting—influences and impulses. The album also captures a musician in search of his style: Kengkarnka has a grasp of several contemporary idioms and a willingness to explore them. Yet his tracks come to life only fitfully. Starting with a nod to Professor Longhair, the pianist quickly turns his ensemble to light, unhurried funk on “Hom Rong.” Next, he offers up the carefully measured, Brazilian-flecked, multipart title track, complete with wordless vocals. Less structured, still moody “Lom Huan” follows, but feels static. By contrast, “6849” is a quasi-minimalist rocker that doesn’t quite cut loose, but finds Israeli altoist Shai Golan stretching out and Kengkarnka fearlessly going with him. The pianist has more grit in his fingers than the smoothly articulated, minor mode filigree he uses here as a default. And these musicians all clearly have the chops to do what they will, write what they imagine and play what moves them. In the future, may fun and freedom ring out over confusions or conundrums.