With a tone resembling Kurt Rosenwinkel‘s but with the soft touch of Jim Hall, Brent Canter’s soulful maneuverings display the lessons he learnedfirst hand from Kenny Burrell. And by the way, who won this year’s ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award? That’s right, Brent Canter.
The L.A. native who attended UCLA on a music scholarship (where he got to study under Burrell) wasted little time in striking out to NYC and making a name for himself there. He formed a trio with organist Adam Klipple and drummer Jordan Perlson, called BC3 (not to be confused with the fusion-oriented but also good BT3 Trio). In 2008, there came the self-released debut record, Soundscape, and three years later, Brent Canter and his rhythm section returned for the encore, Urgency Of Now.
Urgency Of Now is one of those organ jazz records that soothes the soul on casual listens and tingles the mind on closer listens. Still only 25, Canter spent his younger days soaking up Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter and John Scofield, distilling their personalities with the indie rock of his own generation to come up with compositions that avoid jazz cliches in favor of easier to embrace modern chord changes, but keeps the swinging nature and challenging precepts of jazz intact. It becomes apparent right from start, with the shifty and uplifting “Dialogue” that Canter is playing organ jazz music that lives—thrives—in the present. That vibe carries over into the percolating groover, “Meet Me Halfway” and all the way to the delightfully unfolding title cut at the end.
In between, there’s other treats, some by way of personnel. To mix things up a bit, Canter brought in the esteemed Seamus Blake on saxophone on a handful of tunes, a great choice, as Blake works well with guitarists of all stripes. He brings his liquid, no-frills sax voice to songs like “Dialogues,” “With Eyes Closed” (video of live performance below) and “A Long Way From Home” and fits right in without disrupting the flow. Pat Bianchi replaces Klipple on three tracks, his expressive B-3 lifting up the ballad “Settle Down” and keeps it engaging. For his part, Klipple’s rhythmically aware approach lights up tunes like the highly syncopated “With Eyes Closed.”
When scanning the jazz landscape for new talent who has a deep respect for the accomplishments of the older generations while keeping the music fresh, exciting and compelling, I occasionally come across guys like Brent Canter, who make the search for those next jazz stars the all the more worthwhile. I get the feeling we haven’t yet seen the best from Canter, but as the title implies, Urgency Of Now isn’t about a record by an artist waiting to get good. This is compelling music that is fully developed, right now.