You might say saxophonist Stan Killian had it in his blood. His dad, Joe Killian, played piano and Hammond organ with the likes of Sonny Stitt and Don Wilkerson. So, even though he grew up in the not-exactly-jazz-mecca state of Texas, Killian emerged a distinctive player. Since moving to New York in 2006, he’s collaborated with top contemporary players like Jeremy Pelt, Ben Monder, David Binney, and Antonio Sanchez.
On his new album, “Evoke,” Killian is surrounded by superb players: Mike Moreno on guitar; Benito Gonzalez, piano; Corcoran Holt, bass; and McClenty Hunter, drums. They’re worth mentioning up front because “Evoke” is clearly a collaborative effort, driven by Hunter and Holt, with outstanding solos by Killian, Moreno, and Gonzalez at every turn. At times it sounds like one of those glorious blowing sessions from the late 1950s. Killian is generous; sometimes he turns the spotlight on a band-mate like Moreno, whose gorgeous solo kicks off “Echolalic.” Of course it isn’t very long before Killian comes in with his own brilliant excursion.
Aside from his muscular sound on the tenor, Killian wrote all seven of the CD’s tunes and there is not a weak link among them. “Subterranean Melody” launches the album with a nice jolt and, aside from the beautifully evocative (and appropriately named) title tune, it hardly lets up. Perhaps the best thing about “Evoke” is how non-traditional it is. The tunes feature wonderfully original chord progressions, time changes, and voicings, providing an unpredictable listening experience even after multiple listens.