All About Jazz.com
Seven years ago pianist Travis Shook went into a recording studio and emerged three days later having laid down enough material to come away with several new releases. Awake is one of the albums produced in that three-day recording session.
The album was recorded essentially as a core trio with bassist Jennifer Vincent and drummer Jaz Sawyer as the main players, but also include tenor saxophonist Kebbi Williams, trombonist Ron Westray and vocalist Veronica Nunn on selected tracks.
Shook plays like a power pianist, often hammering the keys as he does on the title track and the Latin-flavored “Broadway.” On the sensational fast-paced finale, “Nothing Like You,” he pounces on the piano, beating it into submission on one of the album’s best cuts, also featuring Nunn’s only vocal performance.
While there are only seven tracks on the album, they are all exceptional scores. There are two soft cuts that bring out the lighter side of the pianist’s repertoire. “Touch and Go,” is a slow melody covered with a warm and mellow feel. At less than two minutes in length, “Sacrifice” is a brief delicate ballad and the only piece of music where the pianist plays unaccompanied. My personal favorite has to be the introspective and intriguing “Leviathan,” one sensational tune showcasing the pianist’s abundant talents.
At ten-and-a-half minutes, “Broadway” is a hard-driving pick-up beat featuring Williams’ tenor phrasings and a delicious piano dance by the leader. Shook provides three original compositions, of which the most interesting is “Counterblues,” containing a sophisticated arrangement that moves the music along fast riff chordal changes resulting in one rather intense listen.
A thoroughly enjoyable set of contemporary jazz, Awake captures an exceptional performance by pianist Travis Shook, who succeeds in sculpting a warm and engaging album of rhythm-based beautiful music.
— Edward Blanco