Kenny Carr – Hard Jazz

Guitarist Kenny Carr had the pleasure of touring worldwide with Ray Charles for over 10 years. He was lead guitar for the recordings Just Between Us and Live at Montreux. Since Charles’ passing, Carr performed in Maceo Parker’s Ray Charles tribute big band in addition to headlining NYC’s premier jazz clubs with his Quartet. Carr’s discography of titles including: Friday at Five (2005), Turn the Page (2006), Changing Tide (2007), Idle Talk (2015), Exit Moon (2015), Departure (2018), and Passages (2020).

His new album is Hard Jazz (June 2020), Carr’s eighth album. He takes listeners down a different path to explore his other love of music aside from blues and jazz…rock and roll. In this collection of 10 original tunes backed by acclaimed drummer Richie Morales and guest players, Carr revives a number of compositions drafted across his 40 years of playing and writing. “It was an itch I needed to scratch,” says Carr of his motivation to turn to rock after focusing on jazz and blues. “Richie and I had so much fun jamming one day, I wanted to see where it took us. The genres are cousins after all, and a lot of my past albums have a blend of jazz, blues and some rock elements. I did something similar with Exit Moon a few years ago.”

Indeed, Carr’s jazz has often leaned toward the melodic and bluesy, an influence of Ray Charles, yet Hard Jazz doesn’t abandon jazz completely, with improvised solos and fundamental jazz structures. Carr notes that many of the tunes were written years ago but had been buried, “A couple of the pieces date back to my teens, and I was definitely wearing my heart on my sleeve on a few others” Richie and I recorded these pieces just prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but I decided to release the album now, much earlier than planned, because the pandemic made it feel more relevant. Everyone is grieving and going through different shocks right now, but also celebrating heroes and recoveries. I felt all of that in these tunes.”

Hard Jazz follows on the heels of Carr’s 7th and recent jazz collection, Passages, released earlier this year. The 10 original tunes on Hard Jazz ride on the backbone of Carr’s guitar and Morales’ beat. Carr also plays, guitar synth and keyboards on a few others. Carr brought in Nashville veteran Brian Fullen on drums for the powerful and orchestral opener, “Prelude,” that swells and soars until Carr plunges deep into guitar waters before coming back to the surface for a rolling denouement. New Yorker and fellow Ray Charles alum Darren Solomon rounded out the trio on bass for the feelgood Out West, and Funk Love features NY bassist Dave D’aranjo.

A number of the tunes blend angles and curves in unexpected ways bringing a modern feel to a collection inspired by rock forms of Carr’s youth. The high tempo “Hard Jazz,” for example, delivers Carr’s rapid-fire telecaster riffs but makes plenty of room for Morales and a groovy drum solo. Carr shows off his blues chops in the swaying “Chicago Ray” and he rocks out on “Keep Me Searchin’.”

This album is available on Amazon.com.

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