Apr 30, 2012
Despite a tremendous body of work, pianist Steve Kuhn remains somewhat an afterthought when the great pianists of the past fifty years are named. From his days backing greats like Kenny Dorham, John Coltrane, and Art Farmer; through his days recording trio and solo albums of almost universal excellence, he has been a player and composer of integrity and style. His tenure living and playing in Scandinavia in the sixties coincided with the development of the European style of jazz, captured so often on ECM records. His work with singer Sheila Jordan is a high-water mark in singer-pianist collaborations, matched only by the likes of Bill Evans’ work with Tony Bennett.
Kuhn releases his latest CD on ECM this week, a trio recording called Wisteria. He plays with two long-time collaborators, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joey Baron. Strangely, this is the first time the three have recorded together. I spoke with him as he recovered form some trio dates in Spain, and was gearing up for a run of shows at Birdland to promote the new CD. He’ll perform some solo and trio shows over the summer, and will also return to the University of Massachusetts as a faculty member in the famous “Jazz in July” program established by Dr. Billy Taylor.
Click here to listen to the conversation, including tracks from the new CD and other Kuhn materials, such as:
Steve Kuhn Trio - “Pastorale” from Wisteria. This new album takes a fresh look at several pieces last heard on record in Kuhn’s orchestral Promises Kept collection. Why rerecord these older tunes? Partly, Kuhn says, because he simply hasn’t been writing much new material these days.
Steve Kuhn Trio – “Chalet” from Wisteria. A re-write of “The Real Guitarist (in the House)”, this tune kicks off the CD on a high note.
Steve Kuhn Trio - “The Real Guitarist (in the House)”from Raindrops…Live in New York. And here’s the original tune, performed to a samba beat by Kuhn on piano, George Mraz on bass, Sue Evans on percussion and Bruce Dilman on drums. Recorded in 1972 at Folk City, NY.
Steve Kuhn Trio with Joe Lovano – “The Song of Praise” from Mostly Coltrane. Kuhn was John Coltrane’s first piano player, working with the great man prior to McCoy Tyner. He talks glowingly of what he learned from Coltrane, and how he came to finally record some of Trane’s material almost fifty years after their collaborations.
Steve Kuhn Trio - “Today I Am A Man” from Three Waves. The trio format is Kuhn’s favorite way of interpreting music. This 1975 recording featured Swallow on bass and Pete La Roca on drums.