Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pianist Frank Kimbrough's Solstice

Frank Kimbrough counts among a handful of New York-based pianists who have been refining and expanding the language of ensemble playing over the last few decades (this November he marks 35 years in New York and his sixtieth birthday). Declared a "a near-visionary whose piano-improvising, composing, and band-leading skills seek out the dark corners of untrod jazz terrain" by The New Yorker, Kimbrough is noted for his exquisite ensemble, trio and solo recordings as well as his duo work with Lee Konitz, Scott Robinson, Joe Locke and Paul Bley, his work as a sideman in Dewey Redman's quartet, and his long-term involvement with the Jazz Composers Collective and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. On Solstice, acclaimed players and longtime musical companions, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirshfield join Frank to explore the music of some of the jazz masters who have left a personal imprint on his life.

Kimbrough has had an uncanny ability of meeting the right person at the right time. Shortly after his move to Washington, DC in 1980 Frank met the exceptional singer/ pianist Shirley Horn, who became his friend and mentor. The next year he migrated to New York where he came under the tutelage of one of his heroes, pianist Paul Bley. Around the same period Kimbrough met the ground-breaking pianist Andrew Hill whose music "...literally changed my life. Andrew was an enigma, an inspiration, a mentor, and a dear friend." With the Big Apple as his base, the next years were ripe with tours and recordings. In 1992, Kimbrough helped found the Jazz Composers Collective, an entity that lasted for 13 years, resulting in a concert series, a score of recordings and frequent tours by many of its groups.

In1993 the acclaimed American composer Maria Schneider invited Kimbrough to join her orchestra. This ongoing musical relationship has resulted in Frank's participation in a slew of Grammy award-winning projects as well as in Maria's collaborations with soprano Dawn Upshaw and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and with David Bowie. Schneider marvels, "He wraps himself around each soloist and takes care to go in the direction they're going. I hear things he plays and think Oh God if only I could write that." Add to these impressive credentials his resume of residencies and workshops on 5 continents, an ongoing nine-year stint teaching at the Juilliard School, and some 20 critically acclaimed albums under his own name.

For Solstice, Kimbrough chose two musicians "whose judgment I trust completely." Bassist Jay Anderson has more than 400 recordings under his belt; he has played and recorded with an incredible diversity of musicians, including Michael Brecker, John Scofield, Frank Zappa, and Celine Dion (1997 Record of the Year Grammy). He and Kimbrough have been playing together for some 20 years in Maria's band, the Gil Evans Project and various other groups, as well as on two of Frank's previous albums. Drummer Jeff Hirshfield and Frank also go back 20 years, including several tours together in trio. Hirshfield's and Anderson's musical connection began in the early 80's, and over the years they have often worked and recorded together in a variety of contexts, including Paul Bley's highly regarded album Notes On Ornette. It all intertwines into an enticing spiral of connections between the three.

Kimbrough says that, "I selected compositions that speak to me in ways that are unique and personal. Jay and Jeff didn't know what we were going to play and didn't see the music until we arrived at the date. There was almost no discussion    and no rehearsal - we simply began to play."  Most of the pieces are first takes.

About the tunes, Frank says:

"The simplicity of Seven by Carla Bley shows her genius. I've loved her tunes since first hearing them as a teenager.

Shirley Horn was a magical pianist and vocalist who really knew how to cast a spell. Her recording from a concert in Paris inspired me to play Gershwin's Here Come the Honey Man.

Solstice was composed by Maryanne de Prophetis, the composer/poet/lyricist and vocalist who is my life partner and constant inspiration.

The Sunflower was composed by Paul Motian, a singular drummer/composer, and one of the most unique person- alities in jazz. I enjoyed every moment we spent together both on and off the bandstand.

Annette Peacock's Albert's Love Theme was written for Albert Ayler. Annette's pieces are very personal and spe- cific, yet open, like a landscape.

The only original on the disk is Question's the Answer, as in "the question IS the answer". It has a strong connection to the blues and the bassist has many "root" options.

From California with Love was composed by Andrew Hill in the '70's. I love the mysterious beauty and humanity of his compositions-so modern and free, yet rooted in the tradition.

El Cordobes was written by Annette Peacock for the flamboyant Spanish bullfighter Manuel Benítez Pérez. Like Albert's Love Theme and Seven, I first heard it played by Paul Bley's mid-60's trio.

Walking by Flashlight is from Maria Schneider's song cycle Winter Morning Walks. Maria is a national treasure, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of her musical world."

On their first CD together the trio's philosophy was simply to listen, trust, and respond to one another; in so doing, they have created a gradated musical atmosphere that envelops the enigmatic and the translucent, the mysterious and the artlessly elegant.

Frank Kimbrough Upcoming Performances

Oct. 27 - Frank Kimbrough Trio w/ Jay Anderson and Jeff Hirshfield - Small's, NYC
Oct. 28 - w/Jay Clayton group - Kitano, NYC
Oct. 29 - Frank Kimbrough/ Kirk Knuffke Duo - Spectrum, NYC 
Nov. 4 - w/Maria Schneider Orchestra - Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA
Nov. 10 - w/Marty Ehrlich Sextet playing music of Andrew Hill - The Stone, NYC
Nov. 18 - w/Maryanne de Prophetis, Ron Horton, Satoshi Takeishi - Michiko Studio, NYC
Nov. 20 - Frank Kimbrough solo piano - the Owl Music Parlor - Brooklyn, NY
Nov. 22, 23, 25 - 27 - with Maria Schneider Orchestra - Jazz Standard, NYC
Dec. 8 - Frank Kimbrough Trio w/ Jay Anderson and Jeff Hirshfield - Kitano, NYC 

Jan. 17 - Frank Kimbrough - Solo piano concert - Univ. of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Jan. 18 - Frank Kimbrough - master class - Univ. of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Feb. 10/11 - Frank Kimbrough Trio w/ Jay Anderson and Jeff Hirshfield - "official" CD release weekend - Kitano, NYC   
Feb. 16 - w/Maria Schneider Orchestra - St. Paul, Minnesota
Feb. 17 - w/Maria Schneider Orchestra - Portland Jazz Festival
Feb. 18 - w/Maria Schneider Orchestra - Humboldt St. University, Arcata, CA
Feb. 19 - w/Maria Schneider Orchestra - UC Berkeley
Feb. 20 - w/Maria Schneider Orchestra - Lobero Theater, Santa Barbara, CA
Feb. 21 -w/Maria Schneider Orchestra - SOKA PAC, Aliso Viejo, CA
Feb. 22 - w/Maria Schneider Orchestra - Valley PAC, Northridge, CA
Mar. - w/Maria Schneider Orchestra  - Kennedy Center, Washington, DC
Mar. 10 - w/Maria Schneider Orchestra - Babson College, Wellesley, MA
Mar. 11 - w/Maria Schneider Orchestra - Yale, New Haven, CT
May 25 - 28 w/Gil Evans Project - Jazz Standard

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