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The Frank Kimbrough Trio at The Jazz Standard

Budd Kopman By

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Frank Kimbrough Trio at the Jazz Standard
The Jazz Standard
New York, NY
Wednesday, September 27, 2007

The highest compliment I can think of for the performance that Frank Kimbrough along with bassist John Hebert and drummer Paul Motian gave at The Jazz Standard was that it sounded like a variation on the Bobo Stenson / Anders Jormin / Paul Motian trio gig at Birdland on March 18, 2006 and the Gary Peacock / Paul Bley / Paul Motian trio gig at Birdland on August 23, 2007 in that the interplay of the members of the trio was the essence of the music.

That Motian is the common thread makes the case that Kimbrough is a player whose rhythmic sense is extremely subtle while his harmonic conception is delicate and understated. The set had such a deep intensity that the audience was completely silent, with nary a murmur, as all were entranced and concentrating so as not to miss a single nuance.

Hebert was most definitely a part of the equation; in fact, his melodic playing was the connection between Kimbrough and Motian. His contributions provided a center so that both Kimbrough and Motian were free to play as much or as little as they desired.

The choice of tunes defined the mood of the set. The low, intense burn that was created by such modern classics as Kurt Weill's "My Ship," Annette Peacock's "Mr.Joy," and Thelonious Monk's "Coming On The Hudson" was rarely broken, and indeed only the cool "Blues In The Closet" raised the energy overtly. On this last tune, Motian actually let go and played his drum set rather loudly, as Kimbrough and Hebert watched and smiled.

Besides these tunes, Kimbrough chose "You Don't Know What Love Is," an original, "Waiting In Santander" from his most recent release Play (Palmetto, 2006), and "Sweet And Lovely."

"Sweet And Lovely" is what made the set, and defined Kimbrough's art for me since its melody has a number of distinctive intervals that make it immediately recognizable. What Kimbrough did with the tune was amazing in that he pared down the song to its essentials without losing touch with its identity. Despite the harmonic alterations and the melodic improvisations, the standard which is "Sweet And Lovely" was never far away.

That the set seemed long was primarily because any rhythmic pulse was, for the most part, barely there, as though time stopped. Kimbrough, Hebert and Motian achieved that "in the moment" feeling from the very first notes played, and throughout the set the music was highly emotional and deeply meaningful without any histrionics. As a matter of fact, Kimbrough apologized up front for not announcing the tunes, saying, "Once I am in the zone, I do not want to leave."

Well, neither did the audience.

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