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Frank Kimbrough: Air

Budd Kopman By

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Pianist Frank Kimbrough, who is very active in the Maria Schneider Orchestra and his own projects like the Jazz Composers Collective and the Herbie Nichols Project, relates in the notes to his intensely personal and introspective solo album, Air, that one of his first gigs in New York City was a solo gig on Bleecker Street in Greenwich village from 1985 through to 1990.

While playing when no one is listening is difficult, Kimbrough says he learned a lot about music and life, but most importantly, developed a sound (emphasis his). A sound is more than merely playing loudly to cut through the din of a bar. It is composed of two parts, one physical and the other musical.

The former is related to that mysterious thing called touch, which is both how the player's fingers interact with the keys and ultimately the strings, but also how the notes are connected, meaning how much space is put between them. The latter involves harmonic choices and their voicing, plus the use of the pedals. Everything put together is the pianist's sound and it is that which identifies the player.

Kimbrough has touch in spades—one can hear (or is it feel?) each key bottom out—creating a full, lush, almost liquid sound which belies the percussive nature of the piano. Because of this, and how he connects the notes, his lines literally sing, and it is this point from which Kimbrough begins.

Air, which is comprised of sessions from 2003 and 2005, can be heard as a precursor to a gig at the Jazz Standard in October, 2007. There, joined by bassist John Hebert and drummer Paul Motian, Kimbrough mesmerized the audience with playing that had a deep but understated intensity, and a sound that filled the room.

Motian is represented on this album by his beautiful "It should've happened a long time ago," while Thelonious Monk's "Coming On The Hudson" was played at the Jazz Standard gig and on this album. Kimbrough includes another Monk tune, "Jackie-ing," and the difference between the two is fascinating, with the former almost unrecognizable as Monk in its style and the latter incorporating many "Monk-isms." Rounding out the interpretations is the tune "Wig Wise" by Duke Ellington.

Three Kimbrough compositions stand in the middle of the range of sound worlds in which he lives. "Quickening," "The Spins" and "Ca'lina" all have varying degrees of stride, blues and bop lines and are a lot of fun to listen to and, apparently, to play.

"Air," "Three Chords" and the Motian opening tune present the other side of the picture. With these tracks, Kimbrough is the impressionistic romantic, where pure sound reigns with harmony and melodic line becoming shrouded in the musical mists.

Kimbrough is an eclectic player whose hands get the most out the piano, and Air is a moving document of his current musical thinking.

Track Listing: It should've happened a long time ago; Quickening; Coming On The Hudson; Air; Wig Wise; Three Chords; The Spins; Jackie-ing; Ca'lina.

Personnel: Frank Kimbrough: piano.

Title: Air | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

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