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Aussie pianist Kevin Hunt has worked with such varied and stellar performers as Mark Murphy, Herb Ellis, Sheila Jordan, and the astonishing Australian multi-instrumentalist James Morrison, and he has toured regularly with Don Burrows. His playing can be heard on more than 25 albums, at least two of which have been recognized by major awards. (I don’t recognize the awards, but I certainly recognize the recognition!)
Nonetheless, Love Walked In is his first trio recording that has drawn upon the repertoire of jazz standards. His relationship with the two solid members of his rhythm section is not new, however; these three have been musical colleagues and good friends for as long as they’ve had professional careers. It sounds like it.
There are no true surprises here, although inclusion of Richie Beirach’s “Elm” may raise an eyebrow here and there. Hunt pours his heart into it. In the liner notes, Hunt admits that a couple tunes (“No Moon at All,” “Tricotism/Cheryl”) are Shearing-influenced, but the tribute is artistic, not imitative. Hunt clearly knows his craft and its history, and he pays the same gentle homage to Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Barry Harris, Phineas Newborn, Jr., and Keith Jarrett, before the album is over.
Oscar Peterson’s “Hymn to Freedom,” a gospel-laced solo piece, is thoughtfully paired with “Cry Freedom,” a tune from the soundtrack of the South African-set movie of the same name. Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy” has never been played more poignantly. Johnny Mandel’s “Emily” is taken a bit more brightly than usual, ensuring that it avoids the pitfall of sentimentality to which it is prone. Written in the ‘80s, Hunt’s original “Folk Melody” concludes the set, Jarrett-inspired, country-flavored, but a bit dated-sounding.
Taken as a whole, however, this CD is as warm and comfortable as an old pair of slippers. And it is pure acoustic trio jazz, richly rendered and faithfully reproduced. It can swing foot-tappingly, sparkle brightly, and it can wring your heart of emotion like a washcloth. The album has charm, integrity and good taste, and those never go out of style, nor fail to satisfy.