Any chance that one has to hear a master musician in his or her preferred setting is a gift. For all the one-offs and ensemble by committee type of gigs that spring up, it is the reunion with familiar collaborators for a stint of a few nights that really becomes integral for the best performances.
On his new recording, At This Time, pianist Steve Kuhn found himself just in the right time and place to record a trio record that feels timeless and truly inspired. The ensemble, which features legendary bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joey Baron, was happy to find itself in an extended engagement at Birdland Jazz Club in New York in September 2015 and found time to get into the recording studio before heading to Europe on tour.
Of course, Kuhn has been one of jazz’s foremost pianists for over half a century. He has been fortunate to accompany some of the most important voices of his generation, including John Coltrane, Sheila Jordan and Kenny Dorham, but it is his work in the trio setting that has been where he has made his name.
Kuhn’s current trio features a contemporary, and an important innovator of a later generation. Steve Swallow has been at the forefront of contemporary music for decades. Whether performing alongside Jimmy Giuffre, Paul Bley or Carla Bley, Swallow has been one of the most important figures on both the acoustic and electric bass. Though twenty years younger than Kuhn and Swallow, drummer Joey Baron has cemented himself as one of the most well rounded musicians, at home in the most classic of jazz ensembles and in the most raucous of the avant-garde.
The material for the recording came from the recent set lists from Birdland. The songs comprise a good mix of standards and a couple of Kuhn penned originals.
The recording begins with an exuberant rendition of the Arlen and Mercer classic “My Shining Hour,” which is followed by Al Cohn’s “Ah Moore,” tastefully done by the trio. Quincy Jones’s “The Pawnbroker” is a perfect example of nuance in performance, as is Kuhn’s “All The Rest Is The Same,” which also accelerates in a mid tempo Latin bounce. The pianist’s “The Feeling Within” is a rich and brilliant solo piece.
The trio’s take on Duncan Lamont’s “Carousel” is leisurely paced and has a great solo feature for Swallow. Bernstein’s “Lonely Town” is subtle yet poignant, while the Weill chestnut “This Is New” is an upbeat swinger. The program closes with Gil Fuller’s “I Waited For You,” a lush and mellow ballad performed with great beauty.
Fortunately for the jazz world, Steve Kuhn and his fantastic assemblage found the time to record At This Time, a testament to the importance of dynamics within an ensemble and tasteful performance.
released March 17, 2016
Steve Kuhn - piano
Steve Swallow - bass
Joey Baron - drums