Any chance that one has to hear a master musician in his or her preferred setting is a gift. For all the one-offs and ensemble by committee type of gigs that spring up, it is the reunion with familiar collaborators for a stint of a few nights that really becomes integral for the best performances. On his new recording, At This Time, pianist Steve Kuhn found himself just in the right time and place to record a trio record that feels timeless and truly inspired. The ensemble, which features legendary bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joey Baron, was happy to find itself in an extended engagement at Birdland Jazz Club in New York in September 2015 and found time to get into the recording studio before heading to Europe on tour.
This is a reissue (first time on CD) of the seminal album by legendary German clarinetist/composer Rolf Kuhn (born 1929), recorded with a quintet, which also included his younger brother pianist/composer Joachim Kuhn (born 1944), bassist Klaus Koch and two Polish Jazz legends: saxophonist Michał Urbaniak and drummer Czesław Bartkowski. The album presents six pieces: three original compositions by Rolf Kuhn, two original compositions by Joachim Kuhn and one arrangement of a folk tune. Over the years this album achieved a legendary status and became a highly sought after collector's item, because of its political implications, as well as being one of the earliest East European Jazz recordings and an important cornerstone of European Jazz in general.
French saxophonist Émile Parisien, instigator of some of the most musical, formidably skilful yet wackily diverting adventures in recent European jazz, makes a rare UK visit in a duo at November’s London jazz festival, but this exuberant album rams home the full Parisien experience, with a new quintet, regular accordion partner Vincent Peirani, and two revered European elder statesmen in German pianist Joachim Kühn and French bass clarinet original Michel Portal. From the opening vibrato-trembling soprano sax Préambule (Parisien can be a spiky avantist, but he’s a devoted Sidney Bechet admirer, too), through the hard-swinging Poulp – which sounds like the work of a 21st-century Hot Club band with Ornette Coleman leanings – through the contemporary-noir doom-walk of Brainmachine or the accordion-throbbing Umckaloabo, Parisien leads an exhilarating genre-hop bubbling with captivating remakes of US and European jazz traditions.
Boundary busting and inventive though it was, Kalimba (ACT, 2007)—the first album by German pianist Joachim Kuhn, Moroccan vocalist and guembri player Majid Bekkas, and Spanish drummer Ramon Lopez—ultimately felt like Kuhn's album more than a fully integrated, cross-cultural group exercise. Two years on, the trio's second outing, Out Of The Desert, offers a deeper mix—and an altogether more absorbing one.
Kuhn is a jazz pianist whose recordings may have been out of the jazz mainstream for most of the five decades his career has spanned, but it hardly matters. Kuhn's style is signature, though his explorations have taken him to many different terrains in the world of jazz, from knotty post-bop to pointillism and modalism and through the nefarious world of 20th century vanguard composition to the place where listeners find him now: the place of a supreme and unabashed lyricism that is as sophisticated and forward-looking as it is historical and inclusive.