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September 2003

Steve Kuhn
Love Walked In
Sunnyside

The only thing predictable about Steve Kuhn is his unpredictability. On Love Walked In (Sunnyside) he digs playing neglected treasures, such as Duke Jordan's "No Problem"; he will take an overexposed standard, like "Autumn Leaves," and meticulously avoid its melody; he will not only approach the other Duke's "Prelude to a Kiss" as a bossa nova but mischievously infuse its second eight with "'Tis Autumn"; and while you're still pondering that surprise, he confronts Irving Berlin's cornball waltz "All Alone" and morphs it into a way-up, straightahead 4/4. Were it not for Kuhn's dazzling technique and musical intelligence, he might have been outsmarted by Berlin: "All Alone" may hold up in 3/4, but it simply does not "lay well" as a swinger, so Kuhn has some fun with it, interpolating "As Time Goes By," "Goofus" and even part of a Carmen aria.

It's that kind of album, made even more enjoyable by the instinctive support of bassist Buster Williams and drummer Bill Stewart. There's no mistaking whose voice is dominant, yet they get enough stretch-out time to effectively display their solo chops, particularly on "You've Changed." But it's their uncanny anticipation of sudden detours by the unpredictable one that turns this session into one of the classiest, best-balanced examples of chamber jazz to come down the pike. Why did it take five years? Kuhn recorded this in New York in 1998, the year it was released in Japan on Venus; Sunnyside, which now has the license, released it to the rest of the planet.

Originally published in September 2003
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