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Frank Kimbrough: Solstice

Dan McClenaghan By

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A stellar interlude of three-way instrumental interplay can be found on composer/conductor Maria Schneider's first masterpiece, Concert In The Garden (ArtistShare, 2004), on the set's title tune, beginning about five and a half minutes in. Ben Monder lays down a ghostly guitar solo that climbs to an eerie climax, as a handoff to pianist Frank Kimbrough, who weaves a glistening, dew drop-beaded web of a story, soon to be joined by the accordion of Gary Versace, his instrument sighing, singing a gossamer song around Kimbrough's delicate tapestry.

And for many, that was an introduction to the genius of Maria Schneider, but also off-the-charts artistry of Monder, Versace, and pianist Frank Kimbrough.

With Solstice, Frank Kimbrough's first CD on Pirouet Records, the pianist pushes ahead with the art of the piano trio, with perhaps the finest outing of his career. Joined by bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirshfield, he explores eight lesser known, well-chosen jazz tunes (not quite standards) with an interactive trio approach the recalls the magic of the Concert In The Garden interlude from 2004.

Opening with Carla Bley's "Seven," the trio displays a time-stopping patience and a sublime delicacy—spare and achingly beautiful sounds laid down with more of an equality of instrumental input than is found on most piano trio outings, try as many might to tread that ground. On "Here Comes the Honey Man," from George Gershwin's Porgy And Bess they make the song sound grand and slightly unsettled, with a slow, magisterial turbulence.

The title tune, written by Maryanne De Prophetis, has an elegiac atmosphere (a winter solstice?), and the late drummer Paul Motian's "Sunflower" is a craggy, fissured poem, with Hirshfield sounding very Motian-esque on the drum kit. The lone Kimbrough original, "Question's The Answer," roams a shadowy path, immersed in mystery.

Covers of Annette Peacock's "El Cordobes" and Andrew Hill's "From California With Love," follow, with the set wrapping up with Maria Schneider's "Walking By Flashlight," from her Winter Morning Walks (ArtistShare, 2015) recording. Pared down from orchestral to piano trio, Kimbrough and company maintain the sweetness and reverie, the optimism, of Schneider's lovely tune.

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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