Kenneth Salters Haven - Enter To Exit

Drummer, composer and bandleader Kenneth Salters presents his debut album as a leader, Enter to Exit (Destiny Records). Salters has become a fixture on Manhattan’s West Village independent jazz scene and around the world as an in-demand sideman. His band is comprised of a coterie of musicians with whom Salters has surrounded himself for the better part of a decade, performing a set of originals and two emotionally significant covers that serve as a memoir to Salters’ time in New York City.

Born in New Haven, CT, and raised in Columbia, SC, Salters began his musical career on trombone before pursuing his studies as a percussion major at the University of South Carolina. Since moving to New York in 2006, he has worked with luminaries in jazz and R&B including Don Byron, Chris Potter, and Aretha Franklin.

Salters’ birthplace is part of the double meaning behind the band’s name. Salters explains that one goal with the band is to serve as the audience’s safe haven for music. The band includes one of Salters’ mentors, Myron Walden, on saxophone, joined by Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition finalist Tivon Pennicott and rising star trumpeter Matt Holman in the front line. Salters’ rhythm section compatriots include guitarist Aki Ishiguro, pianist (and Destiny Records labelmate) Brad Whiteley, and Spencer Murphy on bass. The group is complemented by special guest pianist Shai Maestro on “Deception” and harpist Bridget Kibbey on four pieces.

From the opening tune, “When You Find Out,” Salters’ attention to detail, movement and structure is evident in both his drumming and his writing. What begins as a densely polyrhythmic figure eventually settles into a more obvious statement of the piece’s 12/8 time signature. Salters balances complexity with simplicity, his dexterity and control around the kit used in the service of his musicality. In the same way that he is a responsive and attentive drummer, Salters uses longer form compositional structures to showcase each soloist. Guest pianist Shai Maestro is featured on “Deception,” utilizing their rhythmic virtuosity as a cryptic allegory for New York. Things are not always as they seem.

The two covers on the album have a certain personal import for Salters. The first, “Stop the Sun,” is a tune by Downtown NYC stalwarts Elysian Fields, a band Salters worked with for six years. Salters credits his tenure in this band with many inspirations – musical, compositional and personal. Dolly Parton’s “Halos & Horns” serves as a feature for Walden. “Myron was definitely on my list of people to seek out and play with in New York,” remembers Salters, who subsequently became part of Walden’s group Countrified. “I knew this tune was a perfect fit for his sound.” Walden’s presence might also conjure the influence of drummer/composer Brian Blade, whose Fellowship band was a catalyst for Salters to start writing his own music.

Salters also tips his compositional hat to Erik Satie on the piece “Gymnopédie.” “I love how Satie can take such simple progressions and turn them into masterpieces. I used Gymnopédies when I first started really trying to play piano."

The somewhat enigmatic album title comes from an everyday technological quirk. “I was using one of those cheap ATMs where you have to hit the Enter button to exit the transaction,” Ken recalls. “You have to commit to entering something in order to exit it. As most musicians who move to New York (or anywhere really), you are investing a substantial part of your life, you’re entering into a new scene, a new culture, a new life.” Salters, after nearly a decade in his adoptive home of New York, finds himself often exiting the city on tour, discovering new worlds – a career twist that was only afforded to him by moving to NYC.