by Edward Blanco

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Chicago­based educator and jazz pianist, Kevin Fort unveils his debut and first solo album on Red Gold, where he presents an exciting session of light contemporary jazz employing a standard piano trio to document fresh new arrangements of several standards and three original compositions. An active musician in Chicago’s vibrant jazz scene for the past fifteen­years, Fort has performed with some of the best jazz players in the world including Wayne Bergeron, John Clayton, Ramsey Lewis and Bill Watrous among others. This experience and degrees from DePaul University School of Music, has armed the young pianist with the background to be a leading voice in the jazz world and this impressive first effort, lays down the foundation for many future successes.

Lending more than appreciable assistance to the pianist here are, Chicago­ based bassist Doug Hayes and much in­demand drummer and educator at Loyola University, Jon Deitemyer who, provide the cohesive force that carry the date. The standard “When Your Lover Has Gone” kicks off the shine on this piece of gold with the bass humming, the drummer on the brushes and the pianist displaying his dexterity on the keys as the trio deliver an outstanding rendition of the classic. Fort’s title track is quite appealing helped along by the drummer’s handy cymbal and stick work and strong bass lines from Hayes as the leader lays down delicate solos statements throughout.

One of Irving Berlin’s most underappreciated compositions “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm,” is given a fresh new look that brings the tune to life in a swinging new arrangement. The Leslie Bricusse­Anthony Newley song “Cheer Up, Charlie,” is perhaps the warmest spot on an album of generally light balladic material with the pianist starting off the music with a solo introduction before the light brush work and bass join in on a brief but beautiful piece of music.

While the standards and ballad pieces form the meat of this project with gorgeous versions of such iconic tunes as “Never Let Me Go,” Clare Fischer’s “Pensativa” and a soft and tender treatment of Jim Hall’s “All Across the City,” there are several swinging tunes to consider. The original “Coastin’ In” leaves little doubt that Fort and gang know how to play a burner or two and this one picks up where Berlin’s “Keep Me Warm” left off. A highlight of the disc has to be the superb read of Kenny Barron’s quick­paced up beat burner “Voyage” where this trio swings mightily.

The ten­piece set closes out on the last Fort original “Whirled and Whirled Above” featuring more bass solos from Hayes, one last sampling of Deitemyer’s strong drum work and of course, the leader’s impressive skills on the instrument. There’s no question about this one, with many memorable phrases and a talented crew in support, pianist Kevin Fort’s audacious Red Gold sparkles all over casting a light on one of the young lions of the piano deserving of attention.

Chicago Jazz Magazine
by Hrayr Attarian

Chicago pianist Kevin Fort launches his recording career with the intimate and graceful Red Gold. With it he establishes himself as a fully formed and a well­rounded musician with a unique voice. Utilizing a collaborative trio format, Fort interprets three of his intriguing originals and seven covers of standards and other jazz tunes with superb technique and refinement. At the core of the title track—written by Fort—is an engaging, easy flowing melody that he embellishes with intricately constructed yet accessible spontaneous phrases. Bassist Doug Hayes’ lithe pizzicato enhances the tune’s effervescence, while drummer Jon Deitemyer ushers in the conclusion with a thunderous and elegant solo.

Fort demonstrates facile and delightful leadership skills, allowing his sidemen ample opportunity in the spotlight. For instance, on the exuberant Fort­penned, “Coastin’ In,” the group swings hard with urbane style and seamless camaraderie. Fort’s thick rolling chords glow with warm, indigo tones, while Hayes’ conversational and subtly whimsical soliloquy delights with its eloquence. Hayes demonstrates his lyricism on the melancholic “Never Let Me Go.” The ballad evolves with charming nocturnesque flair and sophisticated interplay, peppered with Latin hints.

Elsewhere, on keyboardist Clare Fischer’s romantic and mystical “Pensativa,” Fort demonstrates his western classical influences with a complex and contemplative sonic tapestry over Hayes’ darkly hued reverberations and Deitemyer’s percolating beats. Deitemyer’s dynamic polyrhythms propel the fiery and passionate take on pianist Kenny Barron’s “Voyage.” On this dramatic piece each player showcases his individuality with thrilling virtuosity and agile, vibrant improvisations. With this enjoyable and solidly mainstream debut, Fort proves himself an accomplished artist who is equally at ease with performing and composing. Red Gold is not a supremely provocative or a trail­blazing record; it is, however, quietly cohesive and inviting work with a tastefully understated creativity that should have a wide appeal.

Jazz Weekly
by George W. Harris

Chicago­based pianist Kevin Fort has a touch as deep as a Giordano’s pizza with a trio that sizzles like a hot dog at The Weiner’s Circle on this album that mixes jazz standards with originals. The team does a soft shoe with a deft take of “When Your Lover Has Gone” and can go dainty like a drizzle on “Never Let Me Go,.” The rhythm team is as crisp as Al Capone’s lapels on “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” and can get as breezy as the late innings at Wrigley on the dreamy read of Jim Hall’s “All Across The City.” Fort spotlights his warm and authoritative touch with a warm glove of a solo reading of “Cheer Up, Charlie” while on his own pieces Hayes lays down a nice little groove on “Coastin’ In” and the team sounds as classy as a polished Rolls Royce on “Whirled and Whirled Above.” The interplay between the three is as tight as the Santo­Kessinger­Beckert infield, while they show enough depth to win any short series. This is one Chicago team that is a definite winner and playoff contender.

Scene Newspaper
by George Halas

With Red Gold, Kevin Fort delivers a strong, consistent album of originals and standards that will have fans of piano jazz that stays true to bebop, while incorporating modern elements, considering a trip to the Windy City.

Fort is a Chicago­based jazz pianist, composer, and arranger who has worked with such notable musicians as John Clayton, Bill Watrous, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Bergeron, and Rick Baptist. For this recording, he has assembled a top­notch trio that includes Doug Hayes playing bass and drummer John Deitmeyer.

The album has a pleasing pace that enables Fort and company to explore a number of emotional soundscapes. The band kicks the energy up a couple of notches on Irving Berlin’s I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm, flawlessly and smoothly executing from start to finish while showcasing Fort’s technical brilliance as well as a right­on­the­money solo by Hayes. The Leslie Bricusse­Anthony Newley composition, Cheer Up, Charlie, follows as Fort, et al, gently slow the tempo and guide the listener into a relaxing sonic easy chair.

The trio’s best work comes on the Fort originals. As a composer, he writes in a way that provides plenty of room for Hayes and Deitmeyer to contribute enthusiastically to the melody and the tempo. Fort’s playing is equally energized and the result is that the originals are the highlights of the album. The title piece, Red Gold, is an up tempo expression of joy – you can almost see Fort having fun playing this one – and Hayes contributes a melodic bass solo that adds another dimension to the composition. Dietmeyer keeps his solo work comfortably within the structure and his choices resulting in perfect touches.

Coastin’ In is another Fort original that features a combination of a unique melody with a high­ energy, take no prisoners approach and satisfying contributions from Hayes and Deitmeyer. Fort initially lays back then builds the tempo in a way that you don’t sense it, until you feel your toes tapping or fingers snapping. Another excellent Hayes solo gives way to Fort and Dietmeyer trading fours in a way that highlights their excellent chemistry and Dietmeyer’s ability to apply very tasteful rhythmic flourishes without going over the top.

In many ways, Fort saves the best for last with Whirled and Whirled Above, a composition with a variety of textures and nuance. He uses Hayes to set a unique tone and follows with what is arguably his best playing on the album. Fort is one of those rare piano players who can temper his technical brilliance in the service of the composition, but it is not hard to hear that his playing is something special.

Los Angeles Jazz Scene
by Scott Yanow

Kevin Fort is a talented jazz pianist who is based in Chicago. Although he has been playing professionally for nearly 15 years, Red Gold is his recording debut as a leader. He is joined by bassist Doug Hayes and drummer Jon Deitemyer, fine supportive players who are strong assets.

On the uptempo tunes such as “When Your Lover Has Gone,” “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” and his own “Coastin’ In” (one of his three originals on the set), Fort sounds very much like a classic bebop pianist, one whose playing is much closer to Bud Powell than to Bill Evans. He does not strictly copy Powell and displays his own musical personality. He sounds a bit more modern on the ballads (such as “Never Let Me Go”) and has no difficulty creating fresh statements on Kenny Barron’s “Voyage” and Clare Fischer’s “Pensativa.”

Throughout this consistent program, Kevin Fort plays high­quality solos that add to the legacy of the music. He is a pianist who is certainly worth discovering.

Cadence Magazine
by Bill Donaldson

After performing in Chicago venues for over 15 years, kevin Fort has released his first album. Always performing with the tasteful elegance associated with a Tommy Flanagan or a Bill Charlap or a George Shearing, no matter what the song or style, Fort plays the music with an ease that suggests his high level of experience. While he never departs from the warmth that characterizes his work, staying within the songs’ established rhythm or chord structures, Fort does vary the perspectives toward a song with moving block chords, rapid- fire quotes, his own calls and responses, ornamental tremo- los or unexpected dazzling lines of improvisation. Plus, as a true leader of a piano trio, Fort gives bassist Doug Hayes and drummer Jon Deitemyer plenty of opportunities to shine. On “When Your Lover Has Gone,” Fort’s softened, casual approach over several choruses leads to Hayes’s melodic arco solo akin to Major Holley’s style but without the singing. On “I’ve Got My Love to keep Me Warm,” Deitemyer sets up the spirit of the piece with his brief underplayed intro and appropriately ends it too, but with a contrasting full-throttle fulfillment of the excitement developed throughout its five-and-a-half minutes. Moreover, Deitemyer’s crisp, precise accompaniment accentuating Fort’s interpretation on the first chorus’s stop-rhythm establishes the immediate understanding between them. The result: Kevin Fort has established his own distinctive piano trio style, one in which all three members add their accom- plished individual contributions that blend into a collective whole. While that style, the trio’s established sound, remains intact, Fort varies his song selections to reflect shifting moods. The surging force of kenny Barron’s “Voyage,” bright and imaginative with Fort’s precise articulation, offsets the slow reflectiveness of Jim Hall’s “All across the City,” its minor-key melody stretched in adagio tempo. The gliding, comforting Latin appeal of Clare Fischer’s “Pensativa” is appropriate for the talents of the trio, its confident ease adapting the song’s jewel- like qualifies to its interpretive discoveries. The centerpiece of Red Gold, though, appears to be, not so much the title track, but Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley’s “Cheer Up, Charlie.” Fort presents this song of melancholy awareness without accompaniment during the rubato first chorus. Hayes and Deitemyer join as a background whisper at the bridge when Fort embel- lishes the song with tremolos. Then Fort focuses his attention on the memorable quality of the song itself. And then the performance is over, its convincing statement made in but three-and-a-half minutes. Red Gold, an introduction to like- minded seasoned musicians, is convincing as an album that emphasizes song quality with unified expression.