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George Kahn: Straight Ahead

Dan McClenaghan By

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Los Angeles-based pianist George Kahn likes to think of the standard piano trio format as a gateway drug into jazz. He may be right. Think of the classic trios, those of Red Garland, Nat "King" Cole, Bud Powell. Their sounds are addictive—and distinctively different—but they share the pared-down purity of purpose and relative simplicity of dynamic range that distills the listening experience to its essence.

With that essence in mind, Kahn offers up the first trio outing of his career, Straight Ahead.

Kahn, who has been active in the Los Angeles jazz scene since the 1990s, has a charming accessibility. Catchy melodies and upbeat grooves are the name of the game with him. If he comes out of a school of the piano trio tradition, it must be the school of Ahmad Jamal. His sound is, like Jamal's, a straight ahead, unpertentious sea of sparkling effervescence, ebullient rhythms and life affirming positively.

Refusing to stay with the expected jazz repertoire, Kahn and his trio-mates—drummer Alex Acuna and bassist Lyman Medeiros—open with pop singer Adele's "Rumor Has It," giving the tune a jaunty ride before they percolate into Nat Adderely's "Work Song," as a prelude to a dance-inducing take on Prince's "Thieves In The Temple."

The trio also nods to some of the jazz legends with Kahn's original compositions: "Wonton Kelly" (Wynton Kelly, "Roger Killowatt" (Roger Kellaway), and "Red's Riff" (Red Garland), to offer up Kahn-tinted takes on the classic sounds of the legends.

Kahn sounds right at home in the trio format, with the hihgly engaging Straight Ahead.

Track Listing: Rumor Has It; Work Song; Thieves In the temple Wonton Kelly; Can't Feel My Face; Roger Killowatt; Get Naked; Secrets; Thinking Out Loud; Dreamin'; Red's Riff; Follow Your Heart.

Personnel: George Kahn: piano; Alex Acuna: drums; Lyman Medeiros: bass.

Title: Straight Ahead | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Playing Records

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