Steve Kuhn: Mostly Coltrane (ECM/Ode)

 |   |  1 min read

Steve Kuhn Trio: Central Park West
Steve Kuhn: Mostly Coltrane (ECM/Ode)

Even those jazz listeners not usually drawn to the sound and style of many albums on the ECM label would find the pedigree of the players here, and the topic of their conversation, mighty appealing: pianist Kuhn actually played with John Coltrane for two months in 1960 when he (Kuhn) was 21; the drummer here in this acoustic group is the great Joey Baron (the bassist is David Finck, both longtime players with Kuhn); and the tenor man is Joe Lovano whose credentials are impeccable.

And the material is, as the title says, mostly from the expansive repertoire of a jazz giant, including some material that Kuhn played with Coltrane at the Jazz Gallery in New York.

Kuhn has had a career which has sometimes never quite fired as it might, but working with the sharp and inventive Baron and the solid, supportive Finck over the past decade and a half has continually brought out the best in him, and here -- especially in the more exploratory numbers -- he reaches towards a career peak.

The cornerstone of course is Lovano, a player of supreme and justifiable confidence who here takes a measured (dare we say, ECM approach) to some of the material (Crescent) and at other times digs as deep into the spiritual and liberating quality that this music (and Coltrane's presence) allows. The ballad Central Park West is distilled beauty and romantic simplicity.

Those who know this material and Coltrane's many line-ups will find much to enjoy and even analyse here, although Kuhn and pals move the music into areas of their own.

Baron is capable of channeling Elvin Jones, for example, but for most of this he plays in his own space and style, and perhaps more in line with what we have come to expect on edgy ECM albums. Kuhn too stamps his own fingerprint here and never plays in the shadow of Alice Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and others.

It makes for music which starts with the vaguely familiar but which takes you somewhere else of its own conception, and sounds utterly contemporary. Like an ECM album, we might say.

There is great beauty here (their take on Billy Eckstine's I Want to Talk About You for example which is romantic and soulful) but equally there is that acknowledgement that Coltrane was a seeker -- and so Lovano probes and takes flight, carrying you along with him on their extended investigation of The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.

So, a lot to enjoy, deconstruct and immerse yourself in.

And, at 71, Kuhn has made an album that is as emotionally deep as it is wide. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

FREE JAZZ WITH A BLEEP: The Norwegian electronic-jazz label Rune Grammofone

FREE JAZZ WITH A BLEEP: The Norwegian electronic-jazz label Rune Grammofone

Thelonious Monk said, "Jazz and freedom go hand in hand”. We can guess he meant freedom in a political sense, because jazz is about individual expression and in that regard was a... > Read more

Chris Mason-Battley Group/John Psathas; Dialogos (Rattle Jazz)

Chris Mason-Battley Group/John Psathas; Dialogos (Rattle Jazz)

In 2000, Auckland composer/saxophonist Chris Mason-Battley did something so rare In New Zealand jazz as to be almost unique: for the album Karakia he incorporated and interpreted elements of Maori... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Seafood gumbo, Cajun-style

Seafood gumbo, Cajun-style

Anyone who has had the good fortune to be in Cajun country in Louisiana knows that the food is often spectacularly good. I've only spent too short a time there -- I have a chapter in Postcards From... > Read more

Mahi's West Coast Venison Hot Pot

Mahi's West Coast Venison Hot Pot

This recipe was provided by Jayson Hussey, aka Mahi which means "work" because he was always working. He was the chef at the luxurious Franz Joseph Glacier Country Retreat near the Franz... > Read more