Danny Janklow, Elevation (OutsideIn Music)
Having made a splash in Los Angeles, the alto saxophonist Danny Janklow debuts on record as a leader showing confidence and depth of musicianship uncommon for a 28-year-old. Joined by the veteran pianists John Beasley and Eric Reed and a handful of impressive young contemporaries, Janklow’s playing and writing are effective from beginning to nearly the end of his album. Reflecting his native California roots and his education at Philadelphia’s Temple University, the lead track “Philafornia” has a sunny, skipping quality that is common to several of his pieces. Even the ominously titled “Bad Reception” moves happily through its complications of time and rhythm. It includes a piano solo that confirms Reed’s admiration for McCoy Tyner.
As for Janklow’s style, searching out influences seems beside the point in light of the freshness of his improvising. Nonetheless, there are suggestions of Paul Desmond (including altissimo high notes), Lee Konitz, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane and, in places, Miguel Zenón. His originality extends to repertoire. Janklow wrote all but two of the ten pieces. One of the outsider songs is Radiohead’s massive 1990s hit “Creep,” introduced quietly by Janklow and bassist Ben Williams before it expands into intensity approaching that of Radiohead’s own version, then subsides with close attention to the piece’s inner possibilities, thanks in no small part to the harmonic ministrations of bassist Ben Williams’ and pianist Beasley. “Lolobai” pairs Janklow’s flute with Jesse Palter’s clear soprano voice singing wordlessly. If it is indeed a lullaby, it has a degree of subtle tension that may not guarantee undisturbed sleep. Ms. Palter also sings Janklow’s love song “Hidden Treasure.“ I must confess that I required several hearings to catch all of the words. The instrumental “Calor Del Momento” has Janklow’s flute in a straightforward groove, and other solos en el spiritu Latino by Reed and vibraharpist Nick Mancini.
The concluding “Serene State Of Love,” is an attractive melody well sung by tenor Michael Mayo over a modified samba rhythm, with alto sax obbligato and a gliding solo by Janklow. The song deserves a better lyric than the clichéd one that Janklow, or someone, gave it.
Among Janklow’s champions is Dick Oatts, a fellow alto saxophonist with a rich history that includes work with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Bob Brookmeyer, Red Rodney, Terrel Stafford, Fred Hersch, the Metropole Orchestra and the WDR Big Band, to name a few of his associations. When the mutual admirers appear together, there is no age gap. With them at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles in 2015 were Janklow’s frequent collaborator John Beasley on piano, bassist Ben Shepherd, and drummer Dan Schnelle. Here, they play an Oatts blues in F that he calls “Saddleback
Clearly, Janklow is a young man worth keeping an eye—and an ear—on.