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Frank Kimbrough: Frank Kimbrough on Newvelle: Meantime

C. Andrew Hovan By

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With the resurgence of the LP being what it is today, it should come as no surprise that some entrepreneur would decide to establish a subscription series solely devoted to music pressed on vinyl. In an era of grassroots projects and self-starters, the time had come for such a project, a point not lost on musician Elan Mehler and business partner Jean- Christophe Morisseau. Through their Kickstarter project, the pair established Newvelle Records, a jazz-only recording concern dedicated to documenting new music which is pressed on vinyl and distributed to members who pay to join their subscription service.

Over the course of 2016, the label plans to release six exclusive LP only projects from artists including Jack DeJohnette, Noah Preminger, Don Friedman, Ben Allison, and Leo Genovese. The price is not cheap. For the half dozen LPs, US customers will currently need to shell out $400, which rounds out to about sixty bucks an album. Nonetheless, attention to detail and quality in presentation is high enough to justify this worthwhile endeavor. Recorded at East Side Sound by engineer Marc Urselli, the clear 180-gram vinyl is pressed by MPO in France. Thick and oversize gatefolds house the albums with cover photography provided by photographer Bernard Plossu.

Criminally underrated pianist and composer Frank Kimbrough has the honor of ushering in Newvelle with catalog number NV001 going to his recently released Meantime. Working in a conventional quartet setting, Kimbrough tackles nine selections that straddle cerebral integrity with a heartfelt delivery that almost recalls a contemporary ECM date.

The recital opens and closes with unique approaches to lesser known standards. Kurt Weill's "Alabama Song" moves at a slow and stately pace, while giving us a feel for the collective integrity of this unit. Harold Arlen's "Last Night When We Were Young" is a fitting sendoff, benefiting from the burnished tone of Julliard-bred trumpeter Riley Mulherkar. Paying close attention to his choice of colors on "Katonah," the trumpeter seems to have a fondness for the darker hues of neglected icons such as Booker Little.

Saxophonist Andrew Zimmerman, like his fellow bandmates, may not be widely known outside of NYC environs, but his mature work is worthy of further study. On "Laughing at Gravity," Zimmerman engages in playful interplay with Kimbrough, while his breathy and Getz-like tone is heard at length on "Elegy for PM" and "Twenty Bars." Suffice it to say that bassist Chris Van Voorst Van Beest and drummer R.J. Miller are team players that do more than their share to support the collective goals of this ensemble. Andrew Hill's "Laverne" benefits from Miller's crisp sense of swing, while the Ornette-ish "Meantime" stays on course due to the bassist's grounded muse.

Captured with warmth and precision, Kimbrough and his group shine in this format, even if the overall sound tended to be on the dry side. A minor caveat might also be that the overall range of sounds seemed a bit shy of the highest highs or the deepest lows. Nonetheless, the vinyl disc was flat and largely free of any ticks or defects. Overall, Kimbrough's debut for this new label sets the mark for what is sure to be an auspicious collection of releases to come. Next stop, Jack DeJohnette's first solo piano release in over 30 years; stay tuned!

Associated equipment used for evaluation:
VPI Scout 1.1 turntable with Clearaudio Virtuoso V.2 Ebony cartridge
Musical Fidelity A3CR amplifier and preamp
Sutherland Insight phono preamp
Bryston BCD-1 CD player
Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus 805 loudspeakers
Cardas cable and interconnects, Chang Lightspeed power conditioner
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