The CornerStore - "On the corner of bebop and hiphop, hard rock and hard knocks … Here in West Baltimore. This ain't just a store. It's a metaphor for our lives. … So take a look around. We ain't got what you need, but I know we got what you want. … Thank You For Shopping With Us… Welcome to the corner store." This bits and pieces excerpt comes from Paige Hernadez's narration of the opening track of bassist Kris Funn's long-awaited recording "CornerStore," which is also the group under which this music is presented in public.
Funn is a second generation jazz artist whose father Charles is also a noted educator who was honored a couple years ago by the Jazz Journalists Association as a jazz hero. Kris Funn may be familiar to those who are fans of trumpeter Christian Scott's music as he has been part of Scott's band for a number of years as well as is heard on Scott's recordings. Funn has also played and recorded with vibraphonist Warren Wolf and too many others to note, and when the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival needed a rhythm section for the great Benny Golson, Funn was on bass.
The rest of the CornerStore includes drummer John Lampkin (or Quincy Phillips), guitarist John Lee and saxophonist Tim Green. Allyn Johnson and Janelle Gill add piano to a few tracks. When this writer first saw Kris Funn and CornerStore at a Capital Bop (Local DC jazzgroup) produced show several years ago, it was Lee and Lampkin. Seeing the group on this and other occasions I told Kris he needed to record this group. I was not alone in this, and finally we have this recording.
The music here brings together the mix of lyricism, blues feeling, funk and more, that characterize the CornerStore performances. Blues is a root of Funn's compositions, often repeating a melodic phrase before the compositions open in unexpected and delightful fashions. The opening "Visceral," a trio performance with Funn, Lampkin and Lee imaginatively and energetically taking us through this blues. It was on the following "Gemini," with Green's alto added, that one starts to appreciate the melodic elements of Funn's music with his singing tone in harmony with Lee's guitar on stating the theme. The performances are full of fun (no pun intended) as well as imaginative playing with unexpected twists.
The only number on this that was a bit disappointing was "Thursday Night Prayer Meeting," and that is because pianist Allyn Johnson is spectacular as usual, but he dominates the performance that it minimizes the stop-time, bass break that is part of why this such a favorite of the CornerStore's live performances. At the CD release party at the Kennedy Center (viewable at the Kennedy Center's website), they closed with this. While Johnson was perhaps even more astonishing, the bass break was also more prominent. But it still is a very good performance. In any event, this terrific album has been well worth the wait for us.
I purchased this. It is available from various internet stores including at bandcamp, https://cornerstoremusic.bandcamp.com/album/cornerstore. At another CD release party at the Washington DC Leica Store, Kris Funn and the CornerStore are seen performing "Thursday Night Prayer Meeting," with Herb Scott on alto sax, John Lee on guitar and John Lampkin on drums.