Frank Kimbrough is at his most subtle and contemplative on this solo piano album full of sly wit and lovely melody. His combination of tenderheartedness and mental toughness is a rare one, indeed. The music’s emotional depth and directness, leavened with unexpected quirks and imaginative touches, make it a consistently rewarding album.
Kimbrough’s cover of Monk’s “Coming on the Hudson,” which gentles the tune’s spiky contours with a gently rolling gospel vamp, is a good example of how he can spring a surprise on a your expectations while delivering a performance brimming with feeling. He plays Ellington’s “Wig Wise,” a briskly swinging obscurity plucked from Money Jungle, as moody reverie of crooked rhythms and blues tinges that culminates in lush chords. Kimbrough’s own “Ca’lina” is a direct descendant of stride, which keeps the driving momentum and active left hand of the older form while opening it to greater rhythmic freedom and melodic possibilities.
Kimbrough shapes all these performances with composerly attention to overall form. “It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago” makes a seamless transition from Paul Motian’s delicate tune to improvisation and Kimbrough’s spontaneous composing is as lyrical and considered as the written music. On “Quickening,” a free-bopping tune that owes something to Ornette Coleman, Kimbrough’s freewheeling improvised variations of phrases build to a quietly ecstatic climax. “Three Chords” is a beautifully sustained tone poem of subtle timbres and pastoral melody that feels complete and whole when it concludes. Kimbrough’s music has always been marked by its subtly and charm, but this solo outing really lets those virtues shine through.
- Ed Hazell