Over a career of a half-century and counting, Steve Kuhn has earned renown as one of the most lyrical and affecting pianists in jazz, with an unfailingly beautiful touch and a sophisticated sense of swing. “Steve is an original stylist,” points out Dan Morgenstern, director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers. “He’s one of the finest pianists out there today.” Jazziz magazine described Kuhn’s distinctive sound: “Few other pianists, regardless of genre, can tease such an evocative range of timbres from their instrument. Kuhn’s lower register is as dark and rich as Belgian chocolate, and his upper register has the light, translucent quality of ice-cold champagne.”
The highlights of Kuhn’s extensive discography include a justly acclaimed series of recordings for the art-house ECM label, his ever-fruitful relationship with founder-producer Manfred Eicher stretching back to the early ‘70s. Kuhn’s latest recording for ECM is Wisteria, released May 1, 2012; the album features the pianist playing his favorite Hamburg Steinway model D alongside two longtime partners: electric bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joey Baron. Although Kuhn has collaborated with Swallow for more than 50 years and with Baron for more than 20, the three never played as a trio together until the sessions for Wisteria at Avatar Studios in Manhattan. The album’s wistful title number, written by Art Farmer, references the early-‘60s period when Kuhn and Swallow were in the trumpeter’s band together (although it happens to be an early Farmer tune that they never got to play with him). The pianist and bassist know each other’s playing intimately (“he’s the brother I never had,” Kuhn says), and the two share a love for melody – which Wisteria has in abundance. The album includes the lovely Brazilian “Romance” by Dori Caymmi and Carla Bley’s songful “Permanent Wave,” as well as such harder-driving winners as Kuhn’s tune-rich, bop-inflected “A Likely Story.”
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“Few other pianists, regardless of genre, can tease such an evocative range of timbres from their instrument.” — Jazziz