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Steve Kuhn: Mostly Coltrane

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When John Coltrane left Miles Davis' band at the end of 1959, the first working quartet he formed had Steve Kuhn on piano for gigs at the Jazz Gallery over the first three months of 1960. Here Kuhn pays deeply affecting tribute to Coltrane and his music with Joe Lovano on tenor and tarogato and Kuhn's regular trio members, bassist David Finck and drummer Joey Baron.

Kuhn and Lovano have both been shaped in part by Coltrane's music and the two play some of Coltrane's compositions that aren't frequently heard, from the relatively early "Central Park West" and "Like Sonny" to "Jimmy's Mode" and "Configuration," which didn't appear until 1994's Stellar Regions (Impulse!). Coltrane was an elegiac composer and Kuhn emphasizes that dimension in his own homage. Only "Configuration" explores the expressionist Coltrane of rapid runs and overblown multiphonics. The compositions are more often reflective, even regal in their emotional depth and melodic simplicity, including the opening "Welcome" and the gorgeous "Crescent." Others, like "Jimmy's Mode," can suggest gospel music with their open harmonies.

There's a distinctive gravity to Lovano's sound that emphasizes the weight of memory while Kuhn's musical imagination has a certain Russian caste (he studied with legendary Bostonian piano teacher Margaret Chaloff as a child). He develops this material in a highly distinctive way, effectively combining harmonic density with a light touch and singing melodic lines. He can bring new life to a standard Coltrane played—like Billy Eckstine's "I Want to Talk About You"—or find new possibilities in the modal "Spiritual." It's a well-integrated band, with Finck and Baron contributing much to the music's tone. Kuhn also plays two beautiful unaccompanied solos of his own composition, a moody "With Gratitude" and the luminous conclusion, "Trance."

Track Listing: Welcome; Song of Praise; Crescent; I Want To Talk About You; The Night Has a Thousand Eyes; Living Space; Central Park West; Like Sonny; With Gratitude; Configuration; Jimmy's Mode; Spiritual; Trance.

Personnel: Steve Kuhn: piano; Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone, tarogato; David Finck: bass; Joey Baron: drums.

Title: Mostly Coltrane | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ECM Records

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