Jesse Stacken / Kirk Knuffke: Mockingbird (2009)
Trumpeter Kirk Knuffke in particular is identified with new jazz in its more adventurous attack mode. Here, he and pianist Jesse Stacken seem intent on taking the music back to almost a generation before the compositions, as if they were being interpreted in the '20s-'30s. The technique succeeds, lending the material a quaint dignity and turning away from the avant de- or re-construction avenue that would have been an obvious choice. So, the vintage becomes the vanguard.
The album was recorded live in 2008, at the Bloomingdale School Of Music, where Stacken teaches and is both playful and brightly communicative. Melodies are constructed jointly and the twosome seem to be imagining orchestral arrangements, investing the readings with a large-scale concept that belies actual intimacy. Monk's "Skippy" is bushy-tailed and bouncing while Duke's "Isfahan" sounds like a stylistic co-mingling with the beret-ed one. "Mysterioso" has an almost classical politeness to its introduction, then Knuffke pepper-dusts a solo that could be arriving freshly from 1925. Again, there's an orchestra in their heads during "Sunset And The Mockingbird" and Monk himself might be showering tiny trinkles throughout the closing "Four In One."
This is nostalgia made vibrant, played with precision, depth, good taste and a leisurely refusal to overcrowd its sonic space.
Track Listing: Light Blue; Teo; Such Sweet Thunder; Reflections; Skippy; Isfahan; Misterioso; Bright Mississippi; Sunset And The Mockingbird; Four In One.
Personnel: Kirk Knuffke: trumpet; Jesse Stacken: piano.
Record Label: SteepleChase Records