Chris Kase (b. 1964, New Brunswick, NJ) is a jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist, composer and educator who has resided in Madrid, Spain since 1997. He has performed and/or recorded with many well known jazz artists such as: The Mingus Big Band, Adam Nussbaum, Kenny Wheeler, Bob Mintzer, The Bird of Paradise Orchestra, Steve Coleman, Chick Corea, Steve Wilson, Don Braden, Grant Stewart, Bruce Barth, David Berkman, Al Foster and Perico Sambeat, among others.
In his detailed liner notes trumpeter Chris Kase attempts to shed some light on the technical considerations behind the compositions on his latest release, Nine Easy Pieces. And it is true that there is a lot of meat in his writing; but what really makes this album succeed is the easygoing manner in which all participants navigate music that, while complex and considered at its core, sounds deceptively simple.
Lester Young once said, “Can you sing me a song?” and clearly Kase can. He has a warm and inviting tone on both trumpet and flugelhorn and his playing demonstrates a lyrical elegance that makes every solo, every motif eminently singable. Whether it be on the brooding “Dark Interval,” improvising around a brief 6/4 piano-bass motif, or on the more compositionally rich “Numero tres,” Kase creates melodies which linger in the memory.
And speaking of rich compositions, Kase is another example of a contemporary writer who explores more extended compositional form, avoiding the tune-solo-tune format and, instead, creating a broader framework which still allows the group ample opportunity to stretch out. Remarkably, the group’s improvisations are so thoughtfully constructed that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the written and extemporized.
Kase’s own compositions, which make up seven of the nine pieces on the album, clearly owe more to the European tradition, with the possible exception of “Monje,” which is Spanish for its influence, “Monk”; it is the only tune that really swings in a distinctly American way. By combining a sense of invention with distinctive themes Kase has created an album that, with an innate romanticism, caresses the ear; there is nothing confrontational about Nine Easy Pieces, but the title is also a misnomer as these compositions are by no means easy. The album shows how complex material can be made accessible; how less direct harmonies can still, somehow, be made to sing.
-John Kelman, ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Indeed, Chris Kase has recorded a cd with nine pieces. If he says they’re easy, he must know why! After listening to this recording, one doesn’t get the impression that it would be easy to achieve such a placid, tranquil and balanced recording, but just the opposite.
Three important factors stand out in the final result. First, a handful of magnificent compositions which, except for “Speak Low” and “Hesitation Tango,” are the work of the American trumpeter. The beauty of these melodies is enhanced by wonderful arrangements, especially in the aforementioned “Speak Low,” “Pieza Fácil” y “Número Tres,” a trilogy that opens the album splendidly. Also “Monje,” the closing tribute to Thelonious Monk. Of course, in spite of Kase’s trumpet and flugelhorn mastery, all of this would not be possible without a quartet of magnificent colleagues.
A peaceful disc, something always appreciated especially during certain days of agitation.
-José Francisco Tapiz ·Tomajazz
Trumpeter/flugelhornist Chris Kase possesses a warm tone and distinct sense of assurance when performing on both horns, as many of his compositions are constructed upon melodically shaded lyricism. Supported by a multinational ensemble, the musicians execute these works with an effervescent sheen, regardless of pitch or momentum. Simply stated, Kase is someone to watch!
The quintet works through these generally cool and breezy pieces via complex harmonies and gently climactic passages. On “Pieza Facil,” Kase’s soft lines provide a contrasting element to pianist John Stetch’s delicate phrasings. Yet the musicians’ symbiotic musical encounters infer an intuitive, working relationship here. Hence, a fine outing, enhanced by the engineer's top-notch, and altogether sympathetic, audio processes. (Recommended…)
* * * * This is Chris Kase’s third cd for Satchmo and it is, without doubt, the best of them. Kase presents introspective music based on warm sounds and sophisticated arrangements, filled with interesting blends of colors well rooted in each and every one of the instruments of the ensemble, especially the leader’s ethereal trumpet and flugelhorn.”
–Vicente Ménsua, CUADERNOS de JAZZ (Spain's largest jazz periodical)
* * * * A cd that is easy to listen to, but not at all simple or trivial. Kase has the ability to construct complex pieces of minute detail that his group interprets with simplicity and freshness. To achieve this, Kase counts on the inspired perfection of his writing along with the interplay and high quality of his group. His tunes demonstrate an admirable sense of form and originality, works of a musician in full expressive maturity who possesses personality and original ideas, qualities that many other trumpet virtuosi are lacking.
-José Armenta, MÁS JAZZ