A back-to-the-future 1998 live gig from Frank Kimbrough's piano trio, Quickening features eight original compositions penned by the leader. Kimbrough, bassist Ben Allison, and drummer Jeff Ballard are each members of the Jazz Composers Collective and, with their multiple collaborative projects, have created what is arguably some of the past decade's finest integrative jazz. They are able to play freely while remaining accessible and in turn bring a cutting edge to the mainstream. These abilities are present in a set that catches them celebrating the release of their premiere joint effort, Chant (Igmod).
Kimbrough plays a poetic piano on the extended "Clara's Room." He suggests an initial solitude until the threesome aggregate their collective courage to pick up the pace and investigate the room's every corner. The venerable "For Duke" has a befittingly beautiful melody that serves as an apropos tribute. Allison's gorgeous bass work allows Kimbrough to explore the melody's every angle from multiple temporal perspectives.
It's easy to lose oneself in these pieces: their ebb and flow is seductive and they envelop the listener with an expressiveness that makes for a very personal encounter. The two instances of applause almost harshly remind the listener that this was indeed a communal experience. "Svengali" is an anagramastic hypnotic tribute to Gil Evans, and "Quickening" is a tension filled piece with halting rhythms and quickly changing tempos. Kimbrough's playing is lyrical and eloquent throughout, and he is able to convey subtle shades of emotion with his expressive touch. It is, however, his interplay with Allison and Ballard that makes this a most special offering. Allison's creativity presages his worldly effort from 2002, Peace Pipe (Palmetto), and Ballard's clear mastery of time, later so apparent on pianist Chick Corea's Past Present & Futures (Stretch), is much in evidence.