Posts Tagged ‘Kirk Knuffke’


On Kirk Knuffke

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

This review appears in the November 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

1382427195_knuKirk Knuffke
Chorale (SteepleChase)

By David R. Adler

Cornet specialists aren’t in huge supply, but Kirk Knuffke stands out among this unique lot for his versatility and expressive depth. He’s explored Steve Lacy’s music with Ideal Bread and the Lennie Tristano legacy with Ted Brown. He’s offered a compelling take on the repertoire of Monk, Ellington and Mingus in duets with pianist Jesse Stacken. His sideman work with Matt Wilson, Jon Irabagon and others is vigorous and surefooted.   Chorale, Knuffke’s fourth outing as a leader, finds him in a brilliant lineup with pianist Russ Lossing, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Billy Hart. It’s striking that the nine original pieces all have one-word titles save for the closing “Good Good,” which playfully shifts from uptempo to half-time swing.

Striving for a balance of the written and the freely improvised, Knuffke opens with the former, a plaintive rubato invention called “Wingy.” Hart’s drumming is identifiable within the first minute and its appeal only grows from there, giving more tempo-based pieces such as “Kettle,” “Standing” and “School” a sense of dynamic flux and timbral oddity.

“Madly” revives the hovering feel of the opener but in a much freer context; it’s the longest piece of the set, moving through passages of near silence and ending with Lossing’s fiery unaccompanied piano. The transition from there to “Match” is pretty magical: Lossing is out for the first two minutes while Formanek states a steady bass line and Hart plays hypnotic tom-toms, moving to more jazz-like sticks and cymbals the very moment the piano comes in.

The blend of cornet, bowed bass and piano on the title track does in fact suggest a chorale. This bit of lyrical and offbeat chamber-jazz, rather unlike the album’s other material, yields to free rubato interplay and yet somehow preserves the feeling and direction of the opening statement. It’s the strongest evidence of the band’s profound intuitive connection.


New York @ Night: January 2013

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Happy New Year again! From the January 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record:

As a student of Lennie Tristano and a noted colleague of Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, tenor saxophonist Ted Brown provides a living link to the Tristano school — an intriguing area in jazz history, somewhere in the interstices between bop and “cool.” Brown turned 85 the day before his gig at the Drawing Room (Dec. 2), so he arrived ready to celebrate in his calm and imperturbable way. His co-leader for the first set was Brad Linde, a young DC-based tenorist and Brown disciple, who played with distinction on Brown’s “Smog Eyes” and Tristano’s “317 East 32nd Street,” not to mention the standards “Broadway” and “My Melancholy Baby.” Pianist Michael Kanan, who runs the Drawing Room as a rehearsal space and concert venue, joined the band and juiced up the harmony, adding his own inventive spark. After a break, attention turned to Brown with cornetist Kirk Knuffke, bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Matt Wilson. Harmony was king in this quartet, even with no piano: Knuffke and Brown snaked their way through the changes of “Featherbed” (based on “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”) and applied the Tristano logic in minor keys (“Jazz of Two Cities”) and waltz time (“Dig-It”), all from their new SteepleChase disc Pound Cake. Knuffke had a way of dancing into his melodies, as if striving to embody each phrase physically. Brown played his trickiest heads without a flaw, and his solos, while not as agile as way back in the day, were stamped with pure individuality. (David R. Adler)

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Though it entailed gathering musicians from various parts of the globe, Canadian clarinet master François Houle did the right thing by playing ShapeShifter Lab (Dec. 2) with the exact lineup from his brilliant Songlines release Genera. The frontline of Houle, trombonist Samuel Blaser and cornetist/flugelhornist Taylor Ho Bynum allowed for endless color mutations and finely rendered written parts. Benoît Delbecq kept a fairly low profile on piano and prepared piano, but he endowed the music with a wealth of harmonic and percussive twists. Bassist Michael Bates and drummer Harris Eisenstadt pointed the way from the airiest rubato abstraction to driving, meticulously placed rhythms. The set began slow, with the dark lyricism of “Le concombre de Chicoutimi,” but Houle was thinking in terms of a long medley: Bates soon segued to the uptempo line of “Essay No. 7,” then joined Eisenstadt for a bass/drums interlude that brought the band into the emphatic, slow-grooving “Guanara.” Houle was blowing two clarinets at once by the time the medley was finished. On the swing-based “Albatros” he played through half a clarinet, connecting his mouthpiece directly to the lower joint. That is the essence of Houle’s approach: wildly unstable, expressionistic elements vie with straightforward and undeniable virtuosity. The dueling plunger shouts of Bynum and Blaser on “Mu-Turn Revisited” offered another vivid example. (DA)


Six Picks: October 2010

Friday, October 1st, 2010

My monthly list of recommended CDs, as published in All About Jazz-New York, October 2010:

Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet, Natural Selection (Sunnyside)

Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, Llyria (ECM)

Kirk Knuffke, Chew Your Food (NoBusiness)

Metropole Orkest/John Scofield/Vince Mendoza, 54 (Emarcy)

Florian Ross, Mechanism (Pirouet)

David S. Ware, Onecept (Aum Fidelity)