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Steve Kuhn: Qui

Ken Dryden By

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Steve Kuhn
Quiéreme Mucho
Sunnyside Records
2005


Steve Kuhn
Trance
ECM Records
2006

Pianist Steve Kuhn has never been the type of musician to stand still by sticking to one approach to his instrument, but has sought to explore many different possibilities during his recording sessions. Although recorded decades apart, these two small group affairs (though neither one is longer than a typical LP) are worthy examples of his extensive discography.

Steve Kuhn's Quiéreme Mucho is a 2000 studio date that first appeared on the Venus label in Japan (with a nude female cover photo that was replaced for the more conservative American market), featuring the pianist with bassist David Finck and drummer Al Foster. Together they explore melodies from Spanish-speaking lands, including composers from Spain, Cuba and Mexico, though transforming most of them into bop melodies with little rhythmic clue as to their origin. "Andalucia (The Breeze and I) becomes a driving mid-tempo bop vehicle. The normally slow, sad ballad "Besame Mucho is reborn as a brisk, breezy flight for the trio's improvisations, in which Kuhn incorporates a series of humorous but logical quotes, including The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby . The loping rhythm of Kuhn's setting of the title track is the closest thing to a Latin approach on the date, with Foster's steady percussion and Finck's spacious bass line backing the leader's romantic playing. Kuhn puts the spotlight on his rhythm section in the walking treatment of "Tres Palabras .

Trance marked Steve Kuhn's second session for ECM, a straight reissue of a 1974 session that finds him playing originals and alternating between acoustic and electric piano. Joining him are two premiere accompanists, electric bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Jack DeJohnette, along with percussionist Sue Evans. His composition "Trance suggests a hypnotic state with Kuhn making full use of the keyboard over its steady rhythm.

"Squirt is an avant-garde jazz trip with Kuhn focusing on the upper end of a keyboard, suggesting a treacherous nightmare as the sleeper struggles to awaken; "The Sandhouse is more accessible, yet also has an ominous air.

More cheery is the slightly funky "The Young Blade . The only misfire is the bizarre narrative introduction to "Life's Backward Glance . It is a bit campy as Kuhn utilizes the famous throwaway introduction to novels ("It was a dark and stormy night ) by hack writers.

Kuhn switches to electric piano for several tracks. The upbeat "Squirt will bring immediate comparisons to the work of Chick Corea, though Kuhn's work on the instrument is a bit more subtle. The brisk, Latin-flavored "Something Everywhere almost suggests a galloping ride on horseback, with the focus primarily upon Swallow's imaginative solo. It is a shame that no unissued material was found for this laudable reissue.


Tracks and Personnel

Quiereme Mucho

Tracks: Andalucia (The Breeze and I); Besame Mucho (Kiss Me Much); Siempre en Mi Corazon (Always in My Heart); Duerme (Time Was); Quiereme Mucho (Yours); Tres Palabras (Without You).

Personnel: Steve Kuhn: piano; David Finck: bass; Al Foster: drums.

Trance

Tracks: Trance; A Change of Face; Squirt; The Sandhouse; Something Everywhere; Silver; The Young Blade; Life's Backward Glance.

Personnel: Steve Kuhn: piano, electric piano; Steve Swallow: electric bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums; Sue Evans: percussion.


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