A founding member of the Jazz Composers Collective and a first-call session pianist, Frank Kimbrough's musical output as leader is widely recognized for its persuasiveness. These are powerful sentiments, especially in the digital age, where performers (in all genres) crop up faster than weeds in the garden. But Kimbrough's work as a jazz artist pays homage to the fact that eminent craftsmanship stands on its own.
At times the pianist seems like a musical prophet who professes the virtues of progressive music through his deeply personalized stylistic and inventive faculties. The blues, free jazz, traditional concepts and syncopated pulses often align for seamlessly intertwined concepts that bear definition and substance. And on Play, Kimbrough explores a lighter side, benefiting from the painter-like canvasses set forth by legendary jazz drummer Paul Motian.
With densely melodic undercurrents, Motian and bassist Masa Kamaguchi provide gentle but quietly forceful accompaniment, circling around Kimbrough's harmonious voyages. Exploring quaint sound structures and delicate ballads that walk and breathe, the trio occasionally patrols the banks of the free zone with asymmetrical themes. Kimbrough's acute ability to develop trance-like melodies with a quietly penetrating impetus comes to fruition in various movements. On "Little Big Man, the pianist develops an expansive jazz/shuffle/blues vibe, rekindling memories of pianist Keith Jarrett's late-'70s units. Of course Motian was a vital force when performing with Jarrett, and he lends a general openness and capacious outlook here.
Teeming with eloquence, enviable chops and open-endedness, these pieces were created with only one initial take prior to the actual recording. Supreme artistry and deep-rooted sensibilities yield the outwardly noticeable factors. Kimbrough presents a novel twist, allowing the musicians' uncanny intuition and distinctive style to revitalize the traditional jazz piano trio.
Personnel: Frank Kimbrough: piano; Masa Kamaguchi: bass; Paul Motian; drums.