Audio CD | CD Single
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In 2003 Matt Balitsaris, president and producer at Palmetto invited Frank Kimbrough to Palmetto's recording studio (Maggie's Farm) to test some modifications that had been made to our vintage Steinway piano. The first session consisted almost entirely of tunes by Monk and Annette Peacock. The second session took place in Spring of 2007 and included more of Frank's originals as well as compositions by Paul Motian, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. These sessions produced AIR : informal, mostly first takes, played in the comfortable confines of Maggie's Farm.
Frank Kimbrough has a great deal of experience playing solo piano; in the liner notes to his latest release he recalls a five-year stretch early in his career when the format sustained him. Yet somehow Air is his first solo album. Fittingly, rewardingly, it's a mature and personal reflection. Mr. Kimbrough divides his attentions here between his own tuneful work and a handful of semi-standards by Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and Paul Motian. (That list is instructive, as is the album s dedication to the pianists Andrew Hill and Shirley Horn.) He approaches each theme with generosity and composure; he's more interested in lurking around a melody than in figure-skating over a harmony. Despite his percussive touch, he creates a sense of flow by letting chords chime, overlap and decay. The title track, obviously named after the most ethereal of elements, captures this feeling best. Mr. Kimbrough is ultimately more engaging, though, on material with some root-level relationship to the blues. He gets frisky on just a couple of originals, the stridelike Ca'lina and a modal waltz called The Spins, and imbues the rest of the album with a quietly rhapsodic tone. His readings of Monk's Coming On the Hudson and Jackie-ing, both resplendent in tensions, hint at an elusive mastery. The album's chief distraction, for some listeners, will be Mr. Kimbrough's flashes of deference to Mr. Hill, Paul Bley and even Keith Jarrett, who would surely hear some of himself in this version of an older original called Quickening. But these moments unfold with an appealing spirit of candor. Apparently Mr. Kimbrough would be the first to admit he didn t conjure his style, so to speak, out of thin air. NATE CHINEN, New York Times --New York Times
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Top Customer Reviews
IMO, solo piano recordings are a very difficult art form, much more so than would appear at first glance. Lots have tried and most have not recorded anything that captures these ears. Bley has been among the most captivating; in fact, Bley is the ONLY jazz pianist whose solo work I consistently prefer over his ensemble recordings. Perhaps it is no surprise that Kimbrough excells as well, because Bley's influence is obvious, as Kimbrough himself acknowledges. Yet at the same time, Frank has his own totally unique style and sound. All those hours playing solo before unappreciative audiences and being underpaid at the same time have paid off big time!
This is a wonderful CD, and I am much more inclined to listen to Kimbrough play unaccompanied than someone such as Mehldau (whom I adore in trio formats.) I intend to gradually purchase everything Kimbrough has recorded, and I hope he will have the opportunity to put out more solo CDs. He is an amazing talent, and one of the few who can truly, truly excel in both an ensemble and solo format.
On an existential note, it is recordings like these that quite literally help me to hang in there, and for that, I owe Frank as well as a number of other musicians whose music serves as a healing balm a deep bow.
It was not "longboardjazzer" who first turned me on to the esteemed Frank Kimbrough... I have Ben Allison, Maria Schneider, the Jazz Composer's Collective, and a musician friend in my native Wilmington, NC to thank for that. If I had to sum up Kimbrough's first solo recording in one word, that word would probably be "ethereal" (as the album title might suggest). I'm simply blown away and profoundly moved by this recording, and more so with each successive listening.
A brief note on a few of the tracks. "It Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago" is a haunting and esoteric rendition of the Paul Motian tune from the ECM album of the same name. Kimbrough's take is as poignant as that of Motian, Lovano and Frisell's, with a floating yet foward-moving feel. "Quickening" needs no introduction to Kimbrough fans; suffice it to say that it's wonderful to hear a solo version of this bluesy, ambling (but by no means meandering) piece. I also love it how Kimbrough and the afore-mentioned Ben Allison often revisit previously-recorded tunes---it's wonderful to hear the artistic evolution. "Coming on the Hudson" has an urgency and a left-hand vamp that, to me, is slightly reminiscent of Vince Guardaldi. The title track is as light and effervescent as its name implies. Mingus' "Wig Wise" gets a whimsical, unhurried treatment which is a nice change from the more frenetic version on the classic Ellington-Mingus-Roach recording "Money Jungle" and, more recently, Jason Moran's "Facing Left." "Three Chords" is poignant and slightly Debussy-esque, show-casing Kimbrough's sonic story-telling skills. "The Spins" is a snake-like composition which was also recorded on Kimbrough's 2006 trio-date (and quickly becoming one of my favorite albums) "Play." Again, it's nice to hear a solo rendition of this tune. The Monk composition "Jackie-ing" is playful and a bit more deliberate than the Monk version (at least to my memory); I love the chime-like sound Kimbrough gets with his chords, as well as the stride-like feel to the tune. "Ca'lina," I'm guessing, is a nod to Kimbrough's (as well as this reviewer's) native North Carolina; it has a low-down, diverse (just like NC itself), rambling sort-of feel with a sufficient dose of stride thrown in for good measure.
Hint: not to detract from Amazon's sales, but if you purchase the mp3 album off Palmetto Records' website, two bonus tracks are included. Those are "Three Chords V1," which, like "Three Chords," seems to drift along dreamily while being equally moving; and "C Minor Waltz," which, to this listener, illustrates Kimbrough's mastery of the pedal...his tone has a bell-like clarity throughout this medium-slow tempo waltz.
If you've followed Frank Kimbrough's recordings as a leader (Chant, Quickening, Saturn's Child, The Willow, Lullabluebye, and Play, to name some of my favorites) you will not be disappointed---in fact, you'll love this solo outing. If you're new to Kimbrough, you're in for an aural treat...here's an artist with vision, a consummate pianist, and a human with a sense for the ethereal. This is a recording which gets better each time it's played.