Kenney Polson - Colors of Brazil - Releasing in March of 2021
West Coast jazz saxophonist Kenney Polson is a world traveler who has been to over 50 countries, spreading the gospel of jazz and collaborating with many musicians. He was fortunate to complete successful tours in France and Hawaii before 2020 pandemic travel restrictions set in, then turned his attention to completing a new album, Colors of Brazil, for release in March of 2021.
Polson’s chart-topping 2019 album For Lovers Only merged smooth jazz and R&B, and, as Jeff Becker writes for Jazz Sensibilities, he is clearly “an accomplished crossover artist.” While adept at mixing genres and eagerly absorbing aspects of other cultures, Polson has a strong foundation in American jazz; he earned a master’s degree in jazz composition and arranging from Howard University in 1997. In his new recording, Colors of Brazil, he allows his love of Brazilian music to permeate his smooth jazz sound and gives additional flavor and texture by adding unexpected instruments in novel ways.
Some of Polson’s happiest and most formative years were spent in Rio de Janeiro. He lived in the Ipanema neighborhood for five years and had the opportunity to perform and record with some of the city’s finest musicians. Marinho Boffa, trumpeter Paulinho Trompete, and the late composer/bassist Nico Assumpção were among them. (Written for his daughter, Assumpção’s “Mariana” on Track #5 is a lasting tribute to her and likely the only recording of this composition in existence.) Polson brought jazz and funk to the project, while his Brazilian colleagues contributed intoxicating styles such as samba, partido/alto, samba/funk, and afoxé. Four tracks were recorded in Brazil and six in the United States.
Back in the U.S., Polson enlisted the help of Rio born percussionist Alejandro Lucini (Washington, D.C.) and bassist/arranger Leonardo Lucini (NYC, ) friends from his days at Howard University. Having contributed significantly to Brazilian music’s popularity in the nation’s capital and Mid-Atlantic states, the brothers became key figures in completing the recording.
Polson’s vision for Colors of Brazil was expansive. While wholeheartedly embracing a Brazilian theme, he also experimented by adding different sounds. Leni Stern added guitar and African nGnoni. L.A. harpist Mariea Antoinette adorns two tracks, and Dr. Osamu Kitajima and Mitsuki Dazai play Japanese koto on five tracks. The added instruments create interesting textures, and the intriguing result reflects Polson’s life journey and quest for new sounds.
Polson is deeply touched by the beauty of Brazil’s landscape and its inhabitants. This new project reflects that inspiration. If you’ve ever been to Rio, you know how exquisite the beaches can be. If you haven’t had the pleasure, this album will help you imagine! Writing in the Liner Notes, jazz journalist Raul da Gama says, “The imprint of flawless, superlative artistry is all over Polson’s 2021 album…a recording on par with the finest Brazilian recordings by titans of the saxophone.”
Kenney Polson was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a musical family. His grandfather, “Chubby Wayne” Harshaw (Count Basie, Cab Calloway), was a significant musical influence, along with his Uncle Charles, who sang with the Coasters. Polson has appeared on television with Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Heath, Phil Woods, David Sanborn, and Wynton Marsalis. He has shared the stage with the likes of Joe Williams, Gil Scott-Heron, Michael Henderson, Norman Connors, Bettye Swan, and Lee Garrett.