By Aaron Cohen | Published September 2019
While pianist David Kikoski’s new album conveys a bold mythological title, he hardly is rising from the ashes. He’s been a first-call sideman in numerous bands led by the likes of Roy Haynes and Randy Brecker since the 1990s and has recorded several fine albums under his own name. But his debut on HighNote and his rock-solid ensemble should bring him wider attention.
The title track exemplifies a warm and lively dialogue among all four group members, something that runs throughout the disc. Kikoski shares a writing credit with saxophonist Eric Alexander here, as the upbeat “Phoenix Rising” plays around with time signatures and opens room for the pair’s high-velocity conversation. Similarly, Alexander’s “Kik It” highlights Kikoski’s bluesy approach that also has a surprising tonal shift. With an aggressive feel for blues—as well as funk—the bandleader transforms “Love For Sale” and “Willow Weep For Me” from the typically lachrymose versions and lends each a fresh perspective. But this quartet’s interpretations also are convincing in the subtle changes that develop: Kikoski finesses succinct flourishes on “My One And Only Love,” drummer Joe Farnsworth’s adroit brushwork helping the leader’s solo register perfectly.
Phoenix Rising: David Kikoski, piano; Eric Alexander, tenor saxophone; Peter Washington, bass; Joe Farnsworth, drums.
Personnel: Phoenix Rising; Kik It; Wichita Lineman; If I Were A Bell; Emily; Love For Sale; My One And Only Love; Lazy Bird; Willow Weep For Me. (59:19)