Ashley and Juliet, another one of Kennedy’s tribute-titled songs is sweet and simple. The simplicity allowing Kennedy to showcase yet another solid tenor player, Ed Mount. Mount is another player who treats the composition with the sensitivity that Kennedy had in mind when he wrote it. Jim’s Wall catches you by surprise after Ashley and Juliet. The piece is a Brazilian beat swing piece that takes off with power right out of the first bar and keeps you moving the entire time. All three of the sax players come together to make this excellent composition a powerful piece.
What Would Ed Do? again features Zimmaro on alto and Stroup on Tenor. This piece is another example of Kennedy’s good sense of melody and demonstrates that this group can swing. You are off and swinging again with this cut.
Kennedy shifts gears on Exit 29. Here he delivers a modal treatment of a haunting melody. Zimmaro takes up the flute and Stroup the soprano sax for this cut. Visions of Coltrane dance in your head. Stroup opens it up for Zimmaro and Zimmaro takes it to another level, grooving through the solo with selected notes and perfect timing.
Kennedy follows Exit 29 with another flute and soprano song, Maddie n’ Chee Chee. This number is has an almost Cuban beat inspired groove to it. Zimmaro is again the man who delivers the goods on this composition.
Candy Hearts (Heather Ann’s Song) takes the tempo down a notch or two and takes on an almost sunset, or evening’s end mood. This song is interpreted soulfully by McKenna in the initial bars but just when you settle into that mood, it explodes into a swinging fully expressive mode. Kennedy holds a solid beat for the rhythm section while McKenna explores all the territory available in the changes.
The title piece Road to Wailea is one of the most expressive and energetic cuts on the disc. Zimmaro on flute and Stroup on soprano again, along with mount on tenor allow for a broad range of dynamic treatment of the changes in this composition. The underlying intensity surges up from the rhythms at points to reach critical mass and as quickly recedes back down to pulsing grooves in transition. All the soloist in this piece deliver solid and thoroughly impressive performances. Kennedy was fortunate to have been able to bring this talent together to express his compositions.
All in all, Road to Wailea is an excellent compilation of some solid compositions executed flawlessly by some truly talented musicians. An enjoyable listening experience that has enough color in the palette to avoid boredom, and yet is solidly held together by good instrument choices and sensitive treatment of the themes.
I highly recommend this disc for the listener looking for something creatively new, but built on solid foundations of tradition jazz. Kennedy should be commended for his composing, and his playing skills but mostly for pulling together a killer ensemble to bring his songs to life.