Kim Pensyl – When Katie Smiles

Kim Pensyl
When Katie Smiles
Penton – 2008

Blessed with a bountiful life of jazz, music, love, family and education, pianist Kim Pensyl united his passions in a celebration of intimately inspired melodies and robust rhythm tracks on his fourteenth album, When Katie Smiles. Written, arranged and produced by Pensyl, this release marks his return to contemporary jazz where he previously charted four top 10 Billboard contemporary jazz albums. Powered by a deep bass and thick drum beats “Slap Happy” boasts Pensyl’s nimble contra piano melodies in the foreground while he peppers the background with haunting keyboard fills.

A labor of love like his previous releases, When Katie Smiles finds Pensyl poignantly relishing mundane pleasures sparked from the simple give and take exchanges between people. He infuses his music with the same outlook by allowing his talented quartet to interact and improvise spawning moments of spontaneous splendor. His melodies are joyous, contemplative, heartfelt and eloquent, thoughtful yet organically given space to breathe, unfold and flow in uncluttered arrangements. The production sounds live and warm as Pensyl’s piano and keyboards are enriched, yet never out-muscled by the bass (Andy Woodson), drums (Reggie Jackson), electric and acoustic guitars (Kevin Turner) or percussion (Jim Ed Cobbs). In addition to the single, spotlight selections include the snappy title track that opens the collection, the beautiful and audaciously arranged “Where’d Love Go?,” the exquisite and expansive “Grand Lake,” the inviting and homey “Gentlewind Dr.,” and “Love Comes First,” which closes the album in a cinematically sweet mood.

“As on all my albums, When Katie Smiles is about communicating feelings horn of my life experiences. This makes each album something very personal, emotional and expressive, but it also makes me a bit apprehensive since I put myself in such a vulnerable position by sharing my feelings so openly. However, the chance to communicate deeply with listeners is certainly worth the risk. It creates a bond of understanding that I treasure,” explained Pensyl. “My music is a positive light, deeply committed, and is offered with sincerity in the hope it will bring joy to others by sharing part of my life.”

Pensyl’s lust for music was born in the heart of the Columbus, Ohio native during the musical heyday of the fate 1960’s and early 1970’s. 1-fe first picked up the trumpet and extensively studied composition, arranging, production, engineering and performing. He explored genres of music with fervor from jazz, big band, chamber and orchestral to rock, R&B and pop. After graduating The Ohio State University School of Music with honors, Pensyl moved to Southern California where he earned a Master’s degree in composition. He returned to Columbus after gaining valuable experience on the road performing and writing arrangements for various touring groups.

Pensyl captained his own band at local gigs and also played solo piano dates. This led to the recording of his debut album, Pensyl Sketches #1, which was released twenty years ago. In 1989, ASCAP named him Best New Jazz Writer and two years later, NARM selected Pensyl Sketches #3 as Jazz Album of the Year.