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Steve Kuhn: Shimmering Beauty

By Published: July 7, 2009
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Classical Inflections

AAJ: Your playing always beautiful sometimes seems to encompass aspects of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) and Leos Janacek (1854-1928). Do you listen to specific style of music before or during a project? How important are your listening habits to your art?

SK: No. But Ravel is my favorite composer, so it doesn't surprise me that you would hear that. The French Impressionists I love but especially Ravel; he is my all time favorite. But no, whatever comes out is based on years of listening to music when I was growing up and through my formative years. In recent years I don't listen very much at all to anything. I was super saturated with it all. I find, especially if I am composing, that I really like to keep my head as clear as possible.

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ECM and Dream Projects

AAJ: In 1974 Manfred Eicher signed you to his ECM label already knowing and being a fan of your work, and with Promises Kept, Carlos Franzetti too had already been a fan well-versed in your work. How important is this deep level of sympathy for an artistic collaboration?

Steve KuhnSK: It probably helps but it is not a necessity. It's nice, in terms of a collaborator, that they have some idea of where I am coming from and if there is going to be any kind of empathy or simpatico between us; otherwise there is no point in collaborating. If they were not familiar with my stuff then they will be because I, or the record company, will send them some examples of stuff that I have done, so they'll have an idea. Then they may say "No this is something I am not interested in doing," or they'll say "Yeah, let's do it."

AAJ: This is my only stock question: Do you have any dream project that you have yet to do?

SK: Since I did the strings, not really; though I would like to do something with Claus Ogerman. I don't know if that is ever going to happen or not. I don't know how old he is or what kind of shape he is in these days. But I heard recently, he did a recording—I think it is on Verve—with Danilo Perez

Danilo Perez
Danilo Perez
and Cassandra Wilson
Cassandra Wilson
Cassandra Wilson
. It was Danilo's recording but Claus' writing is exquisite. It just reminded me of how great he is. I found out that he lives in Munich but I don't know if economically it makes sense. But I am going to look into it.

In terms of a dream project then, no. Other than that, and that is a semi-dream because I did do the strings with Carlos; there really isn't anything. Just to be able to work a little more than I do, although it comes sporadically. So it is hard to say at this stage. I am not a fan of traveling, I hate traveling. But in order to do the music you have to travel and put up with the nonsense with the airports and everything these days.

But I still love to play, and love to play in front of people. That is my raison d'etre. If I can't do that then I might as well forget about it all together.

Selected Discography

Steve Kuhn, Mostly Coltrane (ECM, 2009)

Steve Kuhn, Life's Backwards Glances: Solo and Quartet (ECM, 2009)
Steve Kuhn, Live At Birdland (Blue Note, 2007)
Steve Kuhn, Promises Kept (ECM, 2004)
Steve Kuhn, Waltz - Blue Side (Venus, 2002)
Steve Kuhn, Waltz - Red Side (Venus, 2002)
Steve Kuhn, Temptation (Venus, 2001)
Steve Kuhn, The Best Things (Reservoir, 2000)
Steve Kuhn, Countdown (Reservoir, 1999)
Steve Kuhn, Love Walked In (Venus, 1998)
Steve Kuhn, Dedication (Reservoir, 1998)
Steve Kuhn, Jazz'n (E)Motion (BMG, 1998)
Steve Kuhn, Two By 2 (Owl, 1997)
Steve Kuhn, Everything I Need (Brownstone, 1995)
Steve Kuhn, Seasons of Romance (Postcards, 1995)
Steve Kuhn, Remembering Tomorrow (ECM, 1995)
Steve Kuhn, Years Later (Concord, 1993)
Steve Kuhn, Live At Maybeck Recital Hall, Vol. 13 (Concord, 1991)
Steve Kuhn, Looking Back (Concord, 1991)
Steve Kuhn, Oceans In The Sky (Owl, 1990)
Steve Kuhn, Mostly Ballads (New World, 1984)
Steve Kuhn, Playground (ECM, 1980)
Steve Kuhn, Motility (ECM, 1977)
Steve Kuhn, Trance (ECM, 1975)
Steve Kuhn, Ecstasy (ECM, 1974)
Steve Kuhn, Childhood Is Forever (BYG, 1969)
Steve Kuhn, October Suite (Impulse!, 1966)

Photo Credits

Performance Photos: Volume 12
Portraits: Robert Lewis

Featured Story: Guy Van de Poel

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