Classical and jazz saxophonist and composer Ryan Kauffman, plays and teaches in central and eastern Pennsylvania. Among the places he teaches include the Pennsylvania Academy of Music, the Darlington Arts Center and Westtown School. Among the artists he has performed with include David Liebman, Steve Giordano, Tim Warfield, Steve Wilson and the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra. He holds degrees from Mennonite University and West Chester University. Three Little Words is his self-produced and released, first CD.
Joined by Matt Hochmiller on piano, Steve Meashey on bass and Chris Loser on drums, all central Pennsylvania area musicians, the quartet plays six of Kauffman’s straight-ahead jazz compositions and an arrangement of the folk favorite “Shenandoah.” Their easy rapport was obviously honed over years of playing together. While none of the compositions provide difficult challenges, the four none-the-less swing with a singular mind and flow sweetly through each of the tracks.
Warm Air Rises is a nice mid-tempo swinger that features some nice work between Hochmiller and Meashey. Together they hit the ensemble kicks in a firm but understated manner. This kind of subtle support plays well behind Kauffman’s full-bodied tenor playing. Loser is present but not overbearingly so. The sonic bed the three create allow Kauffman room to play some sweet lines.
Hochmiller’s best solo is on “Yes Bossa.” Fitting his lines into the chordal progression in a seamless manner belies an advanced harmonic sense that is guided by common sense and swing feel. One wonders what he could do with a more open format. Loser shines on “Hoosier Daddy.” Working in a quasi-march style ala Jack DeJohnette, Loser showcases a solid sense of time and creates a quirky dialogue with Kauffman’s lines.
The opening title track is much too short, but still manages to provide a nice showcase of Kauffman’s soprano playing. It’s obvious Kauffman has classical chops as his intonation is superb and his technique perfectly fits the structure of his phrases. Whether rising or falling, Kauffman always has a good sense of story-telling as he builds and releases tension line by line.While there is nothing that jumps out and demands the listener to be actively involved with this recording, there is also nothing at all wrong here. Sometimes it’s nice to just listen to four musicians play some beautiful songs and flow with the beat.