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Frank Kimbrough: Solstice

Dan Bilawsky By

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Gravitas and weightlessness may seem like odd compeers, but both are ill at ease with one another and beautifully in league in the music of pianist Frank Kimbrough. On Solstice—the latest of many fine trio dates in Kimbrough's discography, and his first release on the Pirouet imprint—Kimbrough does what he does best, conjuring the elements through his piano and capturing the emotional essence of the songs he inhabits. Originals are scarce here—the muted and mutable, blues-coated "Question's The Answer" is the lone Kimbrough composition—but the music is brimming with originality.

The album opens on the stark visage of Carla Bley's mysterious yet comforting "Seven." Kimbrough and his collaborators—bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirshfield—imbue the music with warmth and dignity in equal parts, leaving ample space on the canvas while still painting all that need be there. The tone and temper shift a bit toward pure placidity on "Here Come The Honey Man," a performance which finds Kimbrough and Anderson wrapped up in gorgeous simultaneous and conversational drifts above and beneath Hirshfield's controlled yet skittering ride cymbal. Then comes the title track—the longest number on the album, at just over eight minutes. It's a work that speaks in mournful and measured tones, and it's one of many opportunities to hear Kimbrough and company in a concentrated pensive state.

As the program continues there are detours into thornier abstraction, layovers in rubato realms, and return trips to centered quietude. It all begins when the trio moves into dicier domains during Paul Motian's "The Sunflower," and it continues with Annette Peacock's ruminative "Albert's Love Theme." Then, following the aforementioned original, there's a wonderfully loose-limbed take on Andrew Hill's "From California With Love," highlighting this group's uncanny ability to play with soft focus; a light-feel groover in the form of Peacock's "El Cordobes"; and an album-ending trio reduction of Maria Schneider's tear-inducing "Walking By Flashlight" which proves that the song can be equally powerful shorn of its orchestral trappings.

Kimbrough's connection to both Anderson and Hirshfield is long and deep, so it should come as no surprise that all three men are so well-attuned to each other. They play as one, and brilliantly at that, but Kimbrough remains the rightful central figure here. If you want to observe an artist who exists as the very definition of pianistic profundity, look no further. Kimbrough is king in that department—a master in our midst, in fact—and Solstice is pure poetry penned with white and black keys.

Track Listing: Seven; Here Come The Honey Man; Solstice; The Sunflower; Albert's Love Theme; Question's The Answer; From California With Love; El Cordobes; Walking By Flashlight.

Personnel: Frank Kimbrough: piano; Jay Anderson: bass; Jeff Hirshfield: drums.

Title: Solstice | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Pirouet Records

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