Musicians have long been required to play with tactful quietude if they intend to find steady work in Kansas City's jazz venues. Three outstanding musicians who performed together in Kansas City in the late 1970s and early 1980s subtly subvert the low-key approach on an instructive new album.
Joined by bassist John Sims, pianist Steve Million, guitarist Steve Cardenas and drummer Ron Vincent play straight-ahead jazz with exacting brilliance on What I Meant to Say. The album's low simmer is unobtrusive enough to augment the plush ambience of the lounge of an upscale Kansas City hotel. Yet attentive listeners will appreciate the quartet's conspiratorial embellishments.
Cardenas flashes a tantalizing glimpse of his wild side on "The Company." "Missing Page" contains stirring shades of John Coltrane's "Naima." "Old Earl" is a melodic gem. Seemingly recalling the strictures of Kansas City gig life, What I Meant to Say is a modestly triumphant exercise in transforming limitation into liberation.