Frank Kimbrough, who died in December 2020, was a pianist of passionate originality, whose playing can be defined by an ease of technique coupled with a flow of ideas and meticulous execution. This current release, Frank Kimbrough 2003-2006, features newly mixed and remastered versions of the pianist's 2003 album Lullabluebye and the 2006 follow-up release Play. These albums were thought to be representative of a particularly productive period in his career.
On Lullabluebye, Kimbrough is accompanied by longtime collaborators bassist Ben Allison and drummer Matt Wilson; eight of the ten tracks feature compositions by Kimbrough with "You Only Live Twice" by John Barry and Ben Allison's "Ben's Tune" not being the exceptions. The opening cut is the title track "Lullabluebye" which is a somewhat off-centred 22-bar blues form. His playing is firmly contoured throughout the number and it progresses with self-assurance and clarity. As Kimbrough runs through his own compositions, whether "Centering" or "Kid Stuff" or "Ghost Dance," he and his partners take us through a sonic soundscape which uses tonal modes, along with ascending and descending chords to arrive at the same destination but though different paths.
"You Only Live Twice" is the title composition from the 1967 James Bond movie. Ever inventive, Kimbrough re-purposes the number as a bossa nova ballad, and he glides over the keyboard in glistening fashion; Allison and Wilson provide fluent support throughout. Allison's "Ben's Tune" is offered at a jaunty tempo which is in keeping with the straightforward line of the number. Throughout the session, Kimbrough and his cohorts play with erudition, command, and curiosity.
In the companion album Play, Kimbrough made changes to his accompanists by engaging the up-and-coming bassist Masa Kamaguchi and pairing him with the venerable drummer Paul Motian, resulting in a session which was constantly shifting through colors and shapes. The opening track is appropriately titled "Beginning," a Kimbrough original, as is the case again with eight of the compositions, the other two belonging to Paul Motian. This number is a very thoughtful and reflective ballad, with Kimbrough demonstrating his musical suppleness, supported by bassist Kamaguchi's ample tone and Motian's quicksilver touch on the drums. As with all Kimbrough recitals, each number is carefully crafted so that the space provided for improvisation gives the band members an opportunity to slip away from their usual world to one of free thought and imagination. "Waiting In Santander" gives expression to this construct as it has layers of shading and imagery which act as connective tissue binding the composition together.
One of the Motian originals is " Conception Vessel" which opens with an intricate drum excursion by the composer before Kimbrough slides into the number with suppleness. Throughout the interpretation, Motian provides a variety of propulsive patterns that supports a melodious flow to the work of the trio members. The album closes with a piano and bass version of "Beginning." The empathy and the surety of each player is readily evident as they make their way through the number.
Volume OneLullabluebye: 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.
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