Steppin’ Up is a powerhouse set of aggressive jazz from New York-based alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker. A commanding soloist who draws from a wide range of influence, Shanker moves easily from contemporary, modal-based ideas to full-throttle, energized swing on this debut release, recorded in 2009. His challenging compositions maintain a listener friendly appeal with lyrical themes and tight, straightforward grooves.
The driving momentum of “Fifth and Berry,” the lightness of “Sarah” and the conviction applied to Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” bring out an improvisational style in the California native that is fast thinking and quick witted. Pianists Art Hirahara and Mike Eckroth contribute solid performances. Guitarist Lage Lund’s linear approach is stunning, especially on “Fifth and Berry” and “E. J.” Brian Fishler is a workhorse of a drummer, pushing hard and keeping his colleagues on edge.