Kikoski is a sideman on saxophonist Michael Zilber's Originals for the Originals, a tribute to seven of the leaders's favorite saxophonists (Michael Brecker, Sonny Rollins, Dave Liebman, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, John Coltrane and Paul Desmond) via wittily-titled originals hinting at their musical spirits.
It is an intriguing set, with Zilber sounding like some of his heroes and not like others. Uptempo "Breckerfast Club" and more somber "Leaves" pay homage to Brecker. The former is a raging piece with Kikoski tearing into the changes and Zilber contributing rapid lines that somehow also sound thoughtful. The sophisticated ballad "Leaves" is a bit mournful, reminding listeners of Brecker's premature passing. "Partly Sonny" borrows part of its melody and calypso feel from Rollins' "St. Thomas", which Zilber cleverly disguises. On "Autumn Lieb" (hints of both "Autumn Leaves" and "Autumn In New York") and passionate "Lieb Dick", he switches to soprano and comes close to capturing the dedicatee's adventurous style.
Zilber pays homage to Wayne Shorter on both soprano (explosive "Weather Wayne") and tenor (laidback and melancholy "Pastel Blues"). Kikoski makes major statements on those two pieces, displaying his versatility. "Hen House" was actually written for Joe Henderson although Zilber sounds closer to Coltrane. The two Coltrane tributes are the wistful "Late Night Trane" and passionate "Coltraning Daze". The latter, based loosely on a well-disguised "I Love You", is taken quite fast on soprano and could actually pass for a Coltrane piece, complete with a saxophone/drums duet for a few choruses. "Coltraning Daze" feels like a relative of "Countdown" or "Giant Steps" with its chord structure, but is given a unique treatment due to drummer Clarence Penn's parade rhythms. The closing "St. Paul", taken by Zilber on soprano, is the lengthiest piece. Even if Zilber's playing does not
conjure up Desmond, his lyricism would have been appreciated by the alto saxophonist.
There is much to discover throughout Originals for the Originals, both in the high-quality playing and the historical references, making it a CD well worth listening to closely.