Although Steve Kuhn has recorded as a leader in a variety of settings since the 1960s, has played in the bands of legends like Stan Getz, Kenny Dorham and even John Coltrane (he preceded McCoy Tyner in Coltrane's quartet), he's seldom mentioned in the pantheon of jazz piano giants. His Blue Note debut, Live at Birdland, should go a long way to correcting that oversight.
The disc chronicles the reunion of a stellar trio Kuhn assembled in the 1980s with bassist Ron Carter and drummer Al Foster. In 2006, after not performing together for twenty years, the group reunited at New York's Birdland to record this exceptional set.
There's a remarkable rapport and trust among these three veterans, who reportedly did not rehearse at all before these performances, but sound like a well-practiced ensemble. There's nothing showy or rushed here; nearly everything is taken at slow or mid-tempos, however the group swings hard throughout.
Standouts include a nearly eleven-minute exploration of Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz," a marvelous pairing of Debussy's "La Plus Que Lente" and Billy Strayhorn's "Passion Flower," and a couple of Kuhn's own fine originals, "Clotilde" and "Two By Two."
Kuhn, at age 69, is a poised and sophisticated pianist with a light, lyrical Bill Evans-like approach. With the help of two similarly accomplished masters, he's made an album that's a capstone to a great career.
If I Were A Bell; Jitterbug Waltz; Two by Two; La Plus Que Lente/Passion Flower; Little Waltz; Lotus Blossom; Stella by Starlight; Slow Hot Wind; Clotilde; Confirmation.
Steve Kuhn: piano; Ron Carter: bass; Al Foster: drums.