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Frank Kimbrough: Play

Chris May By

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Recorded with no rehearsal and just five hours of studio time, Play is something of a departure for post bop-to-free pianist Frank Kimbrough. Unlike almost all of his previous albums, it's a fly by the seat of your pants affair with essentially a pickup group, albeit one of the highest calibre. The pastel, vivacious and lyrical music succeeds because of the artistry of the individual players and the unmistakable good chemistry among them.

Most of the dozen or so albums Kimbrough has made as leader have been with longstanding, match-fit groups, and many of his sideman performances have been with friends and associates from the Jazz Composers Collective. Kimbrough's recordings as co-leader of the Herbie Nichols Project (three albums) and with the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra (four albums) have by their very nature entailed considerable pre-planning and arranging.

Play is an all-round chancier affair. Kimbrough and drummer Paul Motian had never played together before. Bassist Masa Kamaguchi met Motian for the first time at this session. There were no run-throughs, and Motian didn't want any written music—Kimbrough simply played each tune through for him once, and the trio took it from there.

The tunes themselves—seven by Kimbrough, two by Motian—are in the main gossamer-light, almost vestigial fragments. Kimbrough's "Waiting In Santander," the longest track at over eight minutes, is the album's masterpiece, starting with softly cascading, harp-like piano motifs over suspended time, before building into a more intense, but supple and responsive, collective improvisation. "Beginning" and "Lucent" (both by Kimbrough) and "Play" (by Motian) explore similar territory. Motian's "Conception Vessel," which begins with an extended drum intro—practically the only time on the album when Motian is heard solo—is pacier and more assertive.

Two waltz tracks have more conventionally robust structures. "The Spins" is a relatively forceful, rough-edged, Monkish tune which Kimbrough dedicates to the memory of Steve Lacy. "Jimmy G," another Kimbrough tune, is a tender blues for Jimmy Giuffre. Both are delightful.

Kimbrough's playing, characterised by long lines of sustained melodic invention, mostly in the upper reaches of the keyboard, is sunny, warm and full of light. Kamaguchi, an ex-NYC resident now living in Barcelona, complements him perfectly. And Motian is Motian, a subtle, elliptical timekeeper and creative colourist. A lovely trio and a lovely album.


Track Listing: Beginning; The Spins; Lucent; Waiting In Santander; Jimmy G; Play; Regeneration; Little Big Man; Beginning 2.

Personnel: Frank Kimbrough: piano; Masa Kamaguchi: bass; Paul Motian: drums.

Title: Play | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Palmetto Records


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