by Jon Poses – Columbia Daily Tribune – Notes and Tones
We focus on a trio of releases here – pianist Steve Kuhn’s “Mostly Coltrane” (ECM), guitarist Bobby Broom’s “Plays For Monk” (Origin) and vocalist Karrin Alyson’s “By Request” (Concord), which is a “Best of” retrospective of her 11 years with the label – as well as some of the highlights of the just-announced 2009 Jazz Journalist Awards, which is the international media-driven organization that gathers each June in New York to announce their constituents’ results.
Kuhn, now amazingly 71, is a gifted keyboardist – and has been for many, many years. A Brooklyn native, he started playing piano as a child studying with Margaret Chaloff, who schooled him in the “Russian Technique.” Through her he met her son, baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff. As a result Kuhn, still in his teens, found himself playing as part of a rhythm section that backed the likes of Coleman Hawkins, Chet Baker and Vic Dickenson.
Kuhn hooked up with classmates such as Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry; then he met trumpeter Kenny Dorham two years before being asked to join John Coltrane’s newly formed quartet. After working with ‘Trane, Kuhn continued to enjoy a string of high-profile assignments, including work with Stan Getz and Art Farmer.
By the end of the 1960s Kuhn had formed his own trio – the format he is probably most associated with. He’s led a string of great ones. One edition included bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Pete LaRoca; another, in the mid-1980s, involved Ron Carter and Al Foster.
His “Mostly Coltrane” effort employs longtime associate bassist David Finck and Joey Barron, the incredibly gifted and inventive percussionist. This date has one measurable added attraction – saxophonist Joe Lovano, who contributes on almost all of the cuts to “Mostly Coltrane.”
The trio plus Lovano drive through a variety of Coltrane material, including real classics such as “Welcome,” “Crescent,” “Central Park West” and “Like Sonny.” The 13 tracks include a pair of Kuhn originals.
There have been, of course, a lot of Coltrane interpretations; however, Kuhn and company’s work rings both true and original; each member is well-schooled and knows what he is doing – it ain’t an easy deal to pull off.
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Guitarist Bobby Broom, now a fixture on the Chicago scene, is as well-known for his periodic work as a member of many of Sonny Rollins’ groups during the past two decades as he is for his own efforts as a leader and accomplished guitarist.
Broom, who can be seen and heard in Chicago quite regularly, has issued, of late, a series of very good recordings. The newest, “Bobby Broom Plays For Monk,” was released this week and continues the string of satisfying discs he’s issued. This is a date with his regular working trio: bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Kobie Watkins.
Broom is both an extremely fluid soloist and someone steeped in the traditions of Wes Montgomery and early-era George Benson. He plays chunks of chords and simultaneous notes octaves apart.
It’s a perfect fit here given how stylistic Monk and Montgomery could be. On this date Broom peels through a number of interpretations of the pianist’s compositions, including “Ruby My Dear,” “Work,” “Rhythm-a-ning,” “Lulu’s Back in Town,” “Beshma Swing” and the one and only “In Walked Bud.”
I’m not sure “soothing” is the best word for these 10 tunes, but Broom really lays out a relaxed and, like Kuhn, authentic session from classic start to modern finish.
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Area favorite, singer and pianist Karrin Allyson has put together a retrospective of her years with Concord Records. I was surprised when I learned she has issued 11 titles – certainly a significant body of work – for the label since she first landed there. Allyson contributed personal comments in the liner notes that are quite fitting and add to the proceedings.
She’s selected a wide variety of material. What’s consistent here is the level of musicianship. For instance, on piano, we have Mulgrew Miller in the band on her reading of Bobby Timmons’ “Moanin’,” and the late James Williams performs on “What’s New.” There’s also the work of a third great pianist and arranger – Bruce Barth – who is heard on “Life is a Groove” (“Jordu”).
Allyson mixes in some of her Brazilian work, as well as selections such as Cole Porter’s “Night & Day.” In that instance she employs many of her pals, whom she met and worked with while she carved out her career in Kansas City, including pianist Paul Smith, guitarists Rod Fleeman and Danny Embry, bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Todd Strait.
Allyson has long since moved to New York, but she still makes her way back to the Midwest regularly. She has a number of dates scheduled in June. She was actually back home in Kansas City just a few days ago, but if you are headed to Minneapolis, you can see her at the Dakota Tuesday and Wednesday and next weekend in Chicago at the Green Mill. If you can’t make it to those dates, then “By Request” might be the way to get your Allyson fix.
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The Jazz Journalist Awards are worth mentioning simply for the fact that the voting party – writers, authors, photographers and broadcasters – is a varied bunch that is spread out around the globe. Though not without the potential for conflict of interest – for instance, I’m a member but I don’t vote because I feel too directly involved with a number of the nominated artists each year – JJA has always struck me as quite altruistic and nonpartisan. Then again, the same could be said, I suppose, about the Downbeat Critics Awards.
There are a great many categories – every instrument common and less common, writing and arranging capability, ensembles small and large, up and coming talent, etc. – but here are a few listings: Lee Konitz, Lifetime Achievement Award; Sonny Rollins, who performs with more frequency, including a mid-September date in St. Louis, Musician of the Year; and Maria Schneider took home several awards, among them Composer of the Year, Arranger of the Year and Large Ensemble of the Year. Visit www.jazzjournalists.org.