The majority of pianist Frank Kimbrough's albums have focused on the piano trio format, but he's certainly willing to try other things; he made that clear by recording in a duo with vibraphonist Joe Locke on more than one occasion, putting together a bass-less quartet for Noumena (Soul Note, 2000), and going it alone on Air (Palmetto, 2007). Now, with the plainly-titled Quartet, Kimbrough does it again. This time he's at the helm of a foursome that includes a pair of his colleagues from the Maria Schneider Orchestrabassist Jay Anderson and saxophonist Steve Wilsonand drummer Lewis Nash, who Kimbrough first played with in the late '70s and reunited with more than three decades later in Ryan Truesdell's Gil Evans Project.
While Quartet is very much in line with Kimbrough's other work, and it exists in a comfort zone for Wilson and Anderson, it's something of a departure for Nash, a man who the jazz world is more accustomed to hearing in strict-time environments. Here, relieved from the requirement of firmly holding the rhythmic reins, he plays like a different man. On other outings, time snaps and bounces beneath his sticks, but here, time simply flows. It shouldn't be such a surprise that he can play in such fashion, given his deep and broad experience(s), but it still comes as something of a shock. He fully integrates himself into Kimbrough's world, living and breathing with the pianist and his music.
Together, all four men make for quite a combination. They stretch the fabric of swing ("Ode"), deliver deep-fried funky music ("Kudzu"), play it loose and pretty ("Beginning"), and explore the stark beauty that carries autumn into winter ("November"). In addition to the originals, Kimbrough and company add a wonderfully wobbly take on a John Lewis classic ("Afternoon In Paris"), turn in a gorgeous interpretation of a Kurt Weill work ("Trouble Man"), and close out the album with a classy nod to Rodgers and Hart ("It Never Entered My Mind"). Through it all, Kimbrough upholds and extends his reputation as a masterful musician capable of alternately giving shape and substance to the diaphanous and bending the shape of what has hitherto been structurally sound and solid.
The Call; Blue Smoke; November; Kudzu; Trouble Man; Herbivore; Ode; Beginning; Afternoon In Paris; It Never Entered My Mind.
Frank Kimbrough: piano; Steve Wilson: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Jay Anderson: bass; Lewis Nash: drums.
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