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Bill Vint/Steven Kirby/Aubrey Johnson: Illuminations

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

Jazz guitarist nonpareil Steven Kirby vision glows brightly on the perfectly titled Illuminations, richly textured, ebullient and lyrical jazz that represents a giant step in the creative evolution of a wonderful artist. A mix of original compositions, and creative arrangements of standard tunes, Illuminations offers stellar ensemble musicianship and, in turn, lovely individual performances. Highest on the list is the scintillating Aubrey Johnson, who lines each composition with gorgeous, wordless, golden-throated singing that soars as it complements Kirby's arrangements. Throughout, the instrumentation varies confidently, from the bandleader's award-winning guitar to trio and sextet, featuring sax, flute and piano. Like the compositions themselves, the variety is refreshing and the performances are radiant, underscored by big-hearted, full-bodied melodies and courageous lyricism. Kirby's cinematic and strikingly original take on "Over the Rainbow" gives fresh footing to an old friend. Bringing all of this to life is a first-call roster of Boston and NYC-based jazz musicians who all make invaluable creative contributions. Kirby, whose experience includes work with Chris Potter, Mike Manieri and George Garzone, as well as in the classroom at Berklee, proves he truly has something new, organic and exciting to say.


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