Pianist Frank Kimbrough usually records with his working bands. But any self-respecting post-Bill Evans pianist will make exceptions for anyone who played on Waltz for Debbie. One night at the Village Vanguard, Kimbrough talked drummer Paul Motian into joining him and bassist Masa Kamaguchi for a one-off recording session. The band spent five hours in the studio and, without rehearsals or music for Motian (who apparently didn’t want any), what they came up with has now been released as Play.
The recording isn’t compelling from end to end—Kimbrough’s “Waiting in Santander” doesn’t need eight minutes to make its point, for example—but there are plenty satisfying performances here. Motian and Kamaguchi claim a lot of independence for themselves. Kamaguchi, in particular, is all over his instrument, dropping gloopy slurs one minute and high-end pizzicato the next.
But Kimbrough’s even-keeled play gives the record a solid center. Even when the rhythm section shifts and splinters around him, Kimbrough’s lines remain self-contained and delineated, felicitous and of-a-piece with his themes (aside from two Motian compositions, all the music is Kimbrough’s). He and the band sound best on two pithy dedications—“Jimmy G,” an oblong blues for Jimmy Giuffre, and “The Spins,” an appropriately vertiginous, plainspoken number for Steve Lacy.