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Kirk Knuffke: Arms & Hands

Mark Corroto By

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Sometime, watch children as they eat the M&Ms. They will separate the colors into several piles—green, red, brown, yellow, orange, and blue. It's not that each color tastes different, except for maybe blue—I don't remember ever seeing that color before. Nonetheless, they go about savoring each color batch as an independent experience. Those little candies come to mind while attending to cornetist Kirk Knuffke's release Arms & Hands. The disc (released as both CD and LP) is a trio recording with Knuffke's newest band of bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bill Goodwin, but it also features three guest musicians; saxophonists Daniel Carter and Jeff Lederer and trombonist Brian Drye. Like the little candies, the guest appearances and the trio pieces are cut from the same clothe, but there is a tempting urge to divide up this recording.

Maybe that's because Knuffke has spliced his career into so many different directions. He has braided his horn into the bands of Matt Wilson, Allison Miller, Jeff Lederer, Andrew D'Angelo, and David Ullmann bands, plus his own groups Ideal Bread, Sifter (with Wilson and Mary Halvorson) and duo outings with Jesse Stacken, Mike Pride, and Brian Drye. He also works with this trio's partners in the separate bands, Helias' quartet and Goodwin's Ornette project.

The trio music here is dazzling. The combination of Helias' bass, which has kept time for Anthony Braxton and Cecil Taylor, and Goodwin's drums which have backed Phil Woods and Art Pepper, fuses the out and the in. Tricky, off-kilter pieces like "Root" and "Tuesday" satisfy those seeking  challenging compositions, yet the groove is so inviting. Knuffke's cornet playing is (as always) flawless. He can deliver burning runs, slur and chirp notes, all with full command of his most demanding instrument.

Add the guests and the music doesn't taste better, it is just coated differently. Drye's trombone flavors the opening track "Safety Shoes," a meter-shifting feel good (no great) piece. Carter swoops upon "Bright Light" and "Atessa" with a notion that it is hip to be inside Knuffke's conceptions. Lederer's appearance with soprano honors Steve Lacy on "Chirp" and his tenor gives a nod to Sonny Rollins' appreciation of cornball. The band turns a potentially clichéd tune like Ernest Tubbs' country song "Thanks a Lot" into a very hip swinger.

Track Listing: Safety Shoes; Bright Light; Root; Pepper; Chirp; Umbrella; Notwithstanding; Next; Arms & Hands; Elevator; Bonderizer; Tuesday; Use; Atessa; Thanks A Lot.

Personnel: Kirk Knuffke: cornet; Bill Goodwin: drums; Mark Helias: bass; Brian Drye: trombone; Daniel Carter: alto saxophone; Jeff Lederer: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone.

Title: Arms & Hands | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Royal Potato Family

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