Pianist Steve Kuhn’s association with bassist Steve Swallow, with whom he reunites on Wisteria, goes back to the mid-’60s. That’s when they played together in Art Farmer’s band and then in Kuhn’s trio. And as long as we’re talking history, can we point out that with the exception of Ahmad Jamal, no living jazz pianist of note has thrived in the trio format longer or with greater distinction than Kuhn?
The Brooklyn-born, Boston-schooled artist certainly has refined his style over the years, striking new balances between his inside and outside concepts. But if he has lost any of his creative edge, that isn’t evident on Wisteria, which even at its most lyrical has a bright and sometimes bursting immediacy. Much credit for that goes to drummer Joey Baron, whose easy-swinging intensity couldn’t be better suited to the leader’s.
Six of the songs are Kuhn originals, including four from his 2000 with-strings effort, Promises Kept. Two are by Swallow, including the boppish, Brubeck-ian “Good Lookin’ Rookie.” Carla Bley and Dori Caymmi get covered, and then there’s Farmer’s early piece “Wisteria,” on which Kuhn shows off his masterful touch, creating striking moments with a sudden chord cluster or blues accent. With his soft-brushed, guitar-like lines, Swallow is no slouch in the touch department himself. The recording marks the first time this trio has played together, and hopefully it won’t be the last.