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Kenny Gilkes – Taking It From Here

Aug. 6, 2018

Here’s an interesting project from a composer/producer unknown to me until now. His name is Kenny Gilkes and, while his new album, Taking It From Here (his sophomore release), doesn’t state per se what instrument he plays on each track, his primary instrument appears to be piano/keys. Research revealed that his practice is to use “accomplished musicians to bring the songs to life on recordings and in live performances.” One thing’s perfectly clear: This is strong R&B/c-jazz material quite worthy of a listen.

Full of intriguing melodies and moods, Gilkes’ vision is quite apparent in his compositions.

His motivation for this album and its title is his departed beloved mother who once said to him after a hospital visit with her: “Y’all gonna have to take it from here.” Thus, the title. Needless to say, the album is dedicated to her.
The grooves you’ll find here are polished, diverse (in addition to a solid mix of jazz and R&B, there’s a Brazilian/Latin flavor to some of the material), and persuasive.

The musicians he employs here include guitarist Steve Cunningham; vocalists Greta Prince, Tiana Miller, Casey Black, Christopher Lawrence, and son Christopher Gilkes; drummers Marcus Williams and Chris Burroughs, and saxophonist Ryan Kilgore — all artful, quite adept musicians who obviously add lots of shine to the album. Everything else you hear is all performed and arranged by Gilkes.

Some tracks of note for me are the R&B-heavy lead track “A Fashion Affair;” the snappy, up-tempo “Listen to the Day” with standout guitar work from Cunningham, lots of deep, funky bottom-rich bass, some cool backing horns, and in-the-pocket emphatic drumming from Williams; a well-conceived soulful cover of a Neil Sedaka classic “Laughter In the Rain,” and a breezy, gentle little R&B number called “Missing You.”

A good hybrid that’s replete with quality, this one is indeed an impressive project. – Ronald Jackson