Frank Kimbrough's Air

In my last blog, I referred to “my friend, the pianist Frank Kimbrough,” so some of you may be leery when I tell you in this entry that Kimbrough’s new CD, and his first solo work, Air (on Palmetto Records), is a terrific piece of work, one of the half-dozen or so great solo piano albums of the past few years. If your suspicions keep you from checking it out, well, your loss.

I’ve been listening to Kimbrough for 20 years now, ever since he was a protg of Shirley Horn, up through his years as co-director (with bassist Ben Allison) of the Jazz Composers Collective, his longtime stint in Maria Schneider’s Jazz Orchestra, and his occasional projects with Joe Locke, Paul Bley, and Paul Motian. But I have never heard him play with such freedom, virtuosity, and gorgeous lyricism—all at once—as on these sessions.

Listen especially to “Quickening,” an original piece that’s reminiscent of Monk with a dash of Tatum and Waller. Kimbrough plays so much—and takes such different paths—with each of his hands, that I could have sworn I heard overdubbing. (He assures me there was none.) But pyrotechnics have never impressed me for their own sake (for instance, with due respect for the dead, I was never a fan of Oscar Peterson, except as a singer’s accompanist). What’s impressive about Kimbrough is that he can do all this while keeping the pulse ticking and the head swaying. He also does a slow, bluesy cover of Motian’s “It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago,” a knotty spin with a dirge on Monk’s “Coming on the Hudson,” and a jolting excursion through Ellington’s rarely heard “Wig Wise,” among others.

The sound quality is warm and percussive. Buy this.

Wes Phillips's picture

Oh Fred, you had me at "a prot

Steve L.'s picture

You mention that this is "one of the half-dozen or so great solo piano albums of the past few years". I enjoy solo piano, but have very little of it in my collection, and therefore would love to hear the rest of your list.

Fred Kaplan's picture

In answer to Steve L. (and off the top of my head): Jason Moran's "Modernistic," Keith Jarrett's "Carnegie Hall Concert," Fred Hersch's "Let Yourself Go," Brad Mehldau's "LIve in Tokyo"...Fred

Chris H's picture

I've got two cds from Kimbrough, "Play" and "Lullabluebye," both of which I really enjoy. His sets with Motian and Jay Anderson at the Jazz Standard when "Play" was first released were something to behold.Frank is also an extremely nice guy, very friendly and personable if you approach him at a gig to say hello.