Frank Kimbrough, Quartet

A few times, while watching the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra at New York City's Jazz Standard last week (and, by the way, they were as wondrous as ever), I reflected how central the pianist, Frank Kimbrough, is to her sound: his lush improv intros, the rich harmonies he infuses even in the most routine comping. (I once told him that he was Bernadette Peters to Schneider's Stephen Sondheim, a remark that, understandably, he didn't quite know how to take.)

But Kimbrough is a protean artist; his voices are myriad, adaptable to the occasion, as a musician, bandleader, sideman, and composer. His new CD, Quartet (on the Palmetto label), is his first album as the leader of a foursome. (The other albums under his name have been solos, duets, or trios), and it's among his most inventive.

Two of his collaborators here—alto saxophonist Steve Wilson and bassist Jay Anderson—are also members of Maria Schneider's band. All three and the drummer, Lewis Nash, play in Ryan Truesdell's Gil Evans Project (Truesdell is a longtime Schneider-protégé). The interplay is as natural, tight, and loose as you might imagine.

Some have likened Kimbrough's pianism to Keith Jarrett's from his European Quartet days in the 1970s, and there's something to the comparison. But Kimbrough also exudes some of Paul Motian's jingle-jangle percussiveness and Shirley Horn's gold-glow lyricism. Above all, he mixes these influences with his distinctive sound and style; there's nothing remotely derivative here.

The album's ten tracks are originals, except for Kurt Weill's "Trouble Man," John Lewis' "Afternoon in Paris," and Richard Rodgers' "It Never Entered My Mind" (which speak to Kimbrough's taste). They range from haunting to boisterous, bittersweet to upbeat, and they all seethe and simmer with intricate swing and fresh melody.

The engineering, by Jon Rosenberg, is very fine.

Allen Fant's picture

Agreed FK- this is a very fine CD!