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Frank Kimbrough: Frank Kimbrough 2003 - 2006

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Frank Kimbrough: Frank Kimbrough 2003 - 2006
Pianist Frank Kimbrough (1956 -2020) was involved in a good deal of collaboration throughout his career, with the Herbie Nichols Project and, most notably, his twenty-four year, seven CD stint in the piano chair of the Maria Schneider Orchestra, where he elevated an already high altitude music to an even loftier level. Such was Kimbrough's willingness to give his all in sideman contexts with like-minded artists that it could be argued that his own work as a leader may not have achieved the quantity of output that his talent merited. But the quality of his recordings under his own name did not suffer at all, kicking into high gear in the new millennium with recordings like 2002's Autumn (LoNote), a duo set with bassist Ron Brendle, Air (Palmetto, 2007), a solo set, and Solstice (Pirouette, 2016), an exquisitely beautiful trio outing. Then there was 2018's Monk's Dreams: The Complete Composition of Thelonious Sphere Monk (Sunnyside Records, 2018): a career-crowning six CD set of Kimbrough exploring, in a quartet setting, everything that Monk wrote.

In the middle of this, we find 2003's Lullabluebye and Play, both on Palmetto Records, a pair of trio recordings that are offered up—refreshed with terrific remix magic—on Frank Kimbrough 2003 -2006.

Lullabluebye features Kimbrough joined by his long time running mates, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Matt Wilson. On Play he teams with then-new-to-the-scene bassist Masa Kamaguchi and the esteemed drummer Paul Motian, who—in the late-50s/early 60s Bill Evans' Trio with bassist Scott LaFaro—changed the way the piano trio was approached, helping to bring an equilibrium of input into play for all concerned.

Both albums presented here capture Kimbrough's strengths for laying down beautiful, off-center melodies (the play list is heavy on Kimbrough originals), with quirky, playful tunes that lean toward the abstract, with strong melodic lines that keep them from quite going there. Paul Bley and Andrew Hill are often cited as influences on Kimbrough's art. Like Kimbrough, they both pushed the limits enough to nudge the music outside of the mainstream, just barely, adding the distinction of a surprise around every corner in their music.

Taking nothing away from Lullabluebye (an excellent piano trio set), it must be said that Play, with Paul Motian and Masa Kamaguchi, was, at the time it was release, Kimbrough's finest foray into the art of the trio. Motian always elevated the music with his distinctive drumming, and Kimbrough seemed quite inspired by him. It wasn't until 2016 with Kimbrough's Solistice (Pirouet Records), featuring drummer Jeff Hirshfield and bassist Jay Anderson, that a close rival for that top spot came around.

And the sound, spiffed up by Matt Balitsaris, Palmetto Records' boss man, is terrific, unveiling subtleties and nuances in the three-way interplay that were not as obvious in the original mixes. A fine tribute to Frank Kimbrough, who breathed so much life in Maria Schneider's Orchestra, and created his own outstanding but perhaps underappreciated discography.

Track Listing

Volume One—Lullabluebye: Lullabluebye; Centering; Kid Stuff; Ode; Whirl; Ghost Dance; You Only Live Twice; FU BU; Ben's Tune; Eventualities. Volume Two— Play: Beginning; The Spins; Lucent; Waiting In Santander; Conception Vessel; Jimmy; Play; Regeneration; Little Big Man; Beginning 2.

Personnel

Frank Kimbrough: piano; Ben Allison: bass, acoustic; Matt Wilson: drums; Masa Kamaguchi: bass, acoustic; Paul Motian: drums.

Album information

Title: Frank Kimbrough 2003 - 2006 | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

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