Let's be up front about it: I'm not a huge fan of Latin music, including Latin jazz. No offense to the many fine artists or the teeming millions that are into this stuff; I'm just a northern, Arctic Circle kind of guy. Rio bathing beauties are great and all, but, call me crazy, I like Minnesota girls in parkas.
So it was with ambivalence, if not trepidation, that I approached Quiéreme Mucho, the new Sunnyside album (originally released in Europe a few years back) of Spanish-tinged tunes by pianist Steve Kuhn and his trio with longtime bassist David Finck and drummer Al Foster. On the plus side, Kuhn is one of the best and most underrated (or, rather, unrated, since he doesn't seem to be discussed that much at all) pianists who came of age in the 1960s, and Foster's drumming has been a continual source of delight from his fusion days with Miles through to the recent Scolohofo supergroup. Kuhn seems to have as much distaste as I for the mawkishness that can sink this material, as the trio blaze through these tunes at a galloping pace, eschewing for the most part overt Latin rhythms and mannerisms. The result is a bright, swinging trio album that should have broad appeal to piano jazz fans.
The opener, "Andalucia, is given a skipping beat by Foster, while Finck provides an elastic walking bass for Kuhn to dance elegantly around on. Kuhn's playing here lacks the angularity he can sometimes display, and is in fact reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts music in places (which, for this reviewer, is meant as a compliment). The old warhorse "Besame Mucho is, thankfully, nearly unrecognizable here, swinging like mad with some storming trading of eights and fours between Kuhn and Foster. "Duerme is given a loose, boppish run-through, while "Tres Palabras provides room for Finck to stretch out with a tasteful, sliding solo. One of the few tracks to feature an overtly Latin approach, the title track brings out the lovely melody of composer Gonzalo Roig, with playing that is lyrical without being sentimental. The recorded sound on the album is rich, full, and bright.
Quiéreme Mucho, while certainly not a major statement, is an appealing trio record that deserves to be heard by fans of Kuhn, piano trios, and Latin jazz.
Personnel: Steve Kuhn: piano; David Finck: bass; Al Foster: drums.