Wisdom and wistfulness are intertwined in “Wisteria”, whose title track, written by Art Farmer, takes us back to the early 60s, when both Steve Kuhn and Steve Swallow sang softly of the blues in the trumpeter-flugelhornist’s band. They’ve shared a lot of history since then. Swallow played on Kuhn’s classic “Trance”; Kuhn played on Swallow’s “Home” and “So There”. Drummer Joey Baron has been heard with Kuhn on ECM discs including “Remembering Tomorrow” and the dazzling tribute disc “Mostly Coltrane”. This new album takes a fresh look at several pieces heard in Kuhn’s orchestral “Promises Kept” collection, but alongside the aching balladry there is also some driving hard bop (on “A Likely Story”) , a brace of Swallow tunes (“Dark Glasses”), Carla Bley’s gospel-tinged “Permanent Wave” and the Brazilian “Romance” by Dori Caymmi.
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.
In Steve Kuhn's 70th birthday year (2008) three historic recordings by the great American pianist are issued for the first time on CD in a specially-priced, digitally re-mastered 3-CD box set under the title 'Life's Backward Glances.' Contains the much sought-after albums 'Ecstasy', 'Motility' and 'Playground', recorded in 1974, 1977 and 1979. All are new to CD except 'Ecstasy' which was previously available only in Japan. LPs of all three albums are long out of print and highly collectable. 'Ecstasy' belongs in the line of great solo piano discs on ECM including Chick Corea, Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett - Kuhn's album is a major statement on this level. 'Motility' featured Kuhn's working quartet of the mid-70s, with dynamic saxophonist Steve Slagle, and 'Playground' introduced the very popular quartet with singer Sheila Jordan. Personnel: Steve Kuhn (piano) with: Sheila Jordan (vocals), Steve Slagle (saxophones, flute), Harvie Swartz (double-bass), Bob Moses, Michael Smith (drums).
Veteran jazz pianist Steve Kuhn has proved to be a popular artist in Japan, recording a series of CDs for the Japanese label Venus. On these 2006 sessions, Kuhn is joined by bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster, two artists who also have extensive resumes. While the CD is titled Plays Standards, Kuhn doesn't stick exclusively to well-known works. In addition to Victor Young's widely recognized "Beautiful Love" (a favorite of pianist Bill Evans), the pianist offers a seductive take of the composer's "Golden Earrings" and a lighthearted, breezy setting of "Love Letters" as well.
This trio session by Steve Kuhn includes classical works and pieces adapted into pop songs decades ago. He initially studied classical music as a young man with the mother of baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff, so he is well grounded in the music. With bassist Dave Finck and Billy Drummond accompanying him, Kuhn's driving, boppish treatments of "Till the End of Time" (based upon Chopin's Polonaise No. 53) and "Stranger in Paradise" (taken from Borodin's Plovetzian Dance) sizzle with energy.
Pianist Steve Kuhn, accompanied by David Finck and Billy Drummond, explore classical works by a number of top composers from the 19th and 20th centuries on this Japanese release, though they are used as a launching pad for improvisation. Maurice Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess" is recast as a soft samba, also incorporating a bit of an earlier standard that was derived from the French Impressionist's piece, "The Lamp Is Low." Chopin is obviously one of Kuhn's favorite classical composers, as three of his features, highlighted by a dreamy setting of "Nocturne in E Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2." He brightens the tempo of Claude Debussy's "Reverie" while retaining its lyricism, while slowing Johannes Brahms' "Lullaby" to a crawl and demonstrating how a master jazz pianist utilizes space as an element of improvisation.