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.
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.