John Kocur
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John Kocur

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"All About"

The Smoker
John Kocur | Independent (2009)

By Bruce Lindsay

John Kocur's first album as a bandleader is an enjoyable and varied recording, showcasing not only the alto saxophonist's own emerging talent but also those of band mates Amy Bormet on piano, Oliver Albertini on bass and C.V. Dashiell III on drums.
Washington D.C.-based Kocur produced the album as well as composing all of the tunes. The compositions are mainly straight-ahead and clearly influenced by the playing of past masters such as Johnny Hodges and Cannonball Adderley, but they are not simply derivative and the ballads in particular display a maturity in writing and playing.

"The Touch of Her Hair" is a sax-led ballad that could have come straight from the American Songbook. Kocur's alto is emotive without becoming cloying, and he resists the temptation to overplay, keeping the lines simple and hence more effective. Despite the title of the four-movement "Japan Suite," there is no obvious oriental influence on these tracks: "Movement 2" is the funkiest tune on the CD, thanks in particular to Albertini and Dashiell's bass and drums, while "Movement 4" contains a short but powerful solo from Dashiell and some raucous alto from Kocur.

As soloists, all four band members prove themselves to have imagination as well as skill. Bormet's piano introduction on "Unanswered Questions" is especially noteworthy: a delicate and restrained solo that melds perfectly with Kocur's sax at the halfway point of the tune to create a duet that represents the high point of the album.

The quartet's ensemble playing is excellent throughout, although occasionally the production results in the rhythm section becoming rather too loud and intrusive—Albertini's bass on "Sheddin,'" for example. Overall, however, production quality is high. This young quartet of musicians has much to be proud of in this recording, which has confidence, inventiveness and flair.

John Kocur at All About Jazz.
Visit John Kocur on the web.

Track listing: Warrior's Call; Hope for a New Year; Running in the Rain; The Touch of Her Hair; Sheddin'; Independence Blues; Japan Suite (Movements 1-4); Fun Lovers.

Personnel: John Kocur: saxophone; Amy Bormet: piano; Oliver Albertini: bass; C.V. Dashiell III: drums.

Style: Straightahead/Mainstream/Bop/Hard Bop/Cool
Published: August 18, 2009

- Bruce Lindsay

"Washington City Paper"

Jan. 3, 2010
Alto saxophonist John Kocur isn’t called “The Smoker” for nothing. He’s simply one of the finest soloists the D.C. jazz scene has to offer—and, it turns out, one of its most promising composers and bandleaders, too. Kocur’s quartet with pianist Amy Bormet, bassist Oliver Albertini, and drummer C.V. Dashiell III recorded an intriguing album in 2009, and promoted it with some spectacular gigs around town. And they’re starting the new year off strong, with a high-profile gig on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Kocur and the band will play some standards as well as their original material in a set that’s just in time to catch on your way to Sunday dinner. That’s at the Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW. Free. - Michael J. West


"The Smoker" - John Kocur



John Kocur is an exciting young alto saxophonist and jazz composer based out of Washington, D.C. He has been called a "great soloist" by the City Paper, "equally capable of romance and hard-charging groove." His original compositions are rooted in the tradition of American Jazz but seamlessly blend a variety of musical influences including rock, hip-hop, European classical, and world musics. His distinctive alto saxophone style bears the influences of Johnny Hodges, Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, and Kenny Garrett. In 2008, John was selected as an Artist-In-Residence at the Strathmore Performing Arts Center with the responsibility of performing two public shows and an educational workshop at the Mansion at Strathmore.
The John Kocur Quartet is currently performing at various venues in the greater D.C area in support of it's debut album entitled, "The Smoker." The John Kocur Quartet features some of D.C.'s finest young jazz artists. The group performs original compositions and interpretations of classic jazz standards. Recent performances by the John Kocur Quartet include venues such as Blues Alley, Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Twins Jazz, and the Phillips Collection. As a sideman, John has previously performed big band jazz with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra, traditional jazz with the Capital Focus Jazz Band, Rock/R&B covers with the Too Damn Big Orchestra, progressive hip-hop with Christylez Bacon, and has even played backup for comedian/singer Joe Piscopo. John has performed at the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival in Washington D.C., and overseas at the Jazz Ascona Festival in Switzerland and the first annual Nagano Jazz Festival in Japan. Throughout his career, he has shared the stage with jazz artists such as Benny Golson, Fred Wesley, Jimmie Owens, Bill Hughes, Freddie Redd, and Buck Hill.
In 2006, John received a bachelor’s degree in music education from George Mason University, having studied with saxophonists Dale Underwood and Jim Carroll. In 2008, he received a Master of Music degree in jazz studies from Howard University after studying woodwinds with Charlie Young III and Dr. Sais Kamalidiin. As an educator, John continues to share his knowledge with students of all ages. He currently teaches private lessons and is on the music faculty at Northern Virginia Community College, plus he has given lectures and workshops at various other universities and high schools. John is currently a member of the DC Federation of Musicians Local 161-710 and the Washington Area Music Association.