Anything that pianist Steve Kuhn does is likely to be beautifully executed and tasteful, and Pavane for a Dead Princess is no exception. Here, he and his empathic collaborators David Finck (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums) address themselves to the stock classical repertoire, jazzing up eleven popular pieces from Debussy, Rachmaninov, Tchaikowsky, Grieg, Brahms and Chopin. (There are actually two "Pavane"sthe title track, by Ravel, and Faure's version.)
The result is nothing less than terrific. These are not classical melodies sitting stiffly on a jazz beat; instead, the trio digs deep into the structure of these well-worn compositions and thoroughly explores and expands them. Who knew "Swan Lake" or "Fantasy Impromptu" could swing like that? Or that Brahms's treacly "Lullaby" would make such a moving ballad?
Listeners familiar with this music in its original form will get the biggest kick out of this release, and those who've been intimate with Chopin's piano scores will especially appreciate the brilliance of Kuhn's improvisations. But any listener can enjoy what happens to strong, beautiful melodies in expert hands like these.
The recording is clear and warm, the pacing ideal. The musicians are in peak form, sounding positively inspired, and they swing like mad. What a delight!
Track Listing: I'm Always Chasing Rainbows, Pavane for a Dead Princess, Moon Love - Symphony #5 2nd
Movement, One Read Rose Forever - Ich Liebe Dich, Swan Lake, Nocturne in Eb Major Op9,
No2, Reverie, Prelude in E Minor Op28 No4, Full Moon and Empty Arms - Piano Concerto #2
3rd movement, Pavane, Lullaby.
Personnel: Steve Kuhn: piano; David Finck: bass; Billy Drummond: drums.