Returning to the music after some 35 years off the scene, reedman Peter Kuhn helms a live date which catches him in consort with two like-minded and accomplished free spirits in bassist Kyle Motl and drummer Nathan Hubbard. Interest in Kuhn has spiked following the reissue of his debut Livin' Right, as part of the splendid double disc set No Coming, No Going (NoBusiness Records, 2016). In the intervening years since The Kill (Soulnote, 1982), Kuhn has discarded charts and relies on his instincts, which don't let him down on a program of eight collectively navigated pieces.
Kuhn has fostered a democratic ethos predicated on a conversational give and take in which everyone is acutely attuned to changes in bearing and dynamicsas evidenced by the rapid switch from fast paced burn to knotty staccato in "Causes And Conditions," before digging into a loping groove for the final third. Kuhn has developed a palpable connection with both his partners, but especially Motl, as shown by their symbiotic intertwining on "Not Two."
Kuhn's vaulting lines and skittering distortions describe unexpected contours. He suddenly reiterates certain phrases to create anchor points in the unfolding improvisations. On "Unstrung Heroes" Kuhn's tenor saxophone meditation takes on a blue-tinge amid the falsetto grumbles and squeals. But although he wields saxophones and Bb clarinet, it is on the four selections with bass clarinet that Kuhn is at his most distinctive, showcasing a rich full register which he contrasts with his yelping leaps. At times the reedman radiates a soulful aura, most manifest in "No Coming, No Going" (clearly a title that resonates with Kuhn).
Both Motl and Hubbard prove well versed in such off the map excursions. Motl pursues inventive counterpoint, swapping between arco and pizzicato as the moment demands. He often brings about changes in direction, most obviously on the title cut where he signals the shift from the choppy interplay to a ruminative wind down. On drums Hubbard delivers clattering momentum, with some tuneful patterns which recall Ed Blackwell and Denis Charles, most noticeably in his unaccompanied intro and outro to "Volition." Let's hope there's more to come from Kuhn's late flowering.
Is Love Enough; Causes And Conditions; Unstrung Heroes; Not Two; Volition; No Coming, No Going; The Other Shore; Beginning Anew.
Peter Kuhn: Bb and bass clarinets, tenor and alto saxophones; Kyle Motl: bass; Nathan Hubbard: drums.