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 Monday, 30 November 2015
Frank Kimbrough Trio, Live at Kitano (2012, Palmetto) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Monday, 03 December 2012

Live at Kitano

Frank Kimbrough seems to be the quintessential jazz pianist of the Millennium, one who combines the touch and lyricism of 20th century cool (Bill Evans) with the imagination of modern improvisers (Keith Jarrett, Fred Hersch, Andrew Hill), yielding a mix of the sublime, introspective, playful and adventurous.  Those talents appear in abundance in live performance and recording, be it with vocalist Kendra Shank, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Ted Nash Quartet, Herbie Nichols Project, or his own trio outings. As with his last trio recording (Rumors, 2010), Live at Kitano was recorded by famed photographer, now audio engineer Jimmy Katz, with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Matt Wilson serving as Kimbrough’s collaborators. And as with most of Kimbrough’s trio projects, the music flowed with “no rehearsals, no set lists and little discussion of the music beforehand.” The intimacy of The Kitano provided the ideal context for this collection of “originals, standards and tunes composed by musicians who have meant much to me over the years,” Kimbrough notes on the CD liner.


Frank KimbroughİAndrea Canter
The diverse covers include the extended “Blues in the Closet” (Oscar Pettiford) with its Monkish overtones in voicings and rhythm; the delicate, harp-like keyboard cascades, ethereal basslines and bubbling percussion crystals on Paul Motian’s “Arabesque”; and the wistful “Lover Man” with an overlay of melancholy bass. Kimbrough himself provides the apt description of Andrew Hill’s “Dusk” as “a diatonic melody over sweet and sour chords that never quite resolve.” Kimbrough and Anderson make sympathetic dance partners, if moving to different heartbeats, with Wilson the glue holding them in step. Anderson carries the melody of Ellington’s “Single Petal of a Rose” --surprisingly an uncommon part of the repertoire—while Kimbrough gives it a thoroughly 21st century makeover with Wilson maintaining a steady, subtle presence throughout.


Of the original compositions, Frank describes “Helix” as “just a melody and a counter line over a pedal,” a “simple” form offering an open canvas for repetition, experimentation and variations – perhaps a delicate double helix? An older work, “Falling Waltz” swings on all three cylinders. Anderson takes a bouncy solo; Wilson trades back and forth with Kimbrough, building more momentum with each orbit. It’s a perfectly formed vehicle to show off the empathy among the trio, but perhaps the most significant force here is Wilson’s restrained playfulness. The final track is a new tune, “Hymn,” a gospel-charged blues reminiscent of Jarrett with a more dissonant foundation. Kimbrough’s thickly adorned lines (suggesting Chopin on hallucinogenics) intertwine with Anderson’s rumbly bass while Wilson hangs out in a laid-back overdrive.


I’ve been at the Kitano, one of most intimate, serious-listening jazz clubs on Earth. And I can think of no ensemble better suited to that environment than this edition of the Frank Kimbrough Trio.  Listening to Live at Kitano, you can hear the silence between notes, feel the unspoken communication between musicians, see each idea flow into the next. If you sit close enough, you can reach out and touch the piano – as Kimbrough and company reach out and touch each ear. It’s a feat they manage even second hand, with this album.




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