Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

David Kikoski: The Maze

David Kikoski is one of New York’s busiest pianists. It’s no wonder. Given his swinging, always spontaneous playing, one immediately understands why his bio includes tenures with Roy Haynes, Bob Berg, Pat Metheny and the Mingus Big Band. The thirtysomething pianist also has four outstanding leader dates to his name. Building on that solid past here, there’s a maturity and in-the-moment brio that will appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Meshing perfectly with Kikoski’s programmatic plan are tenorman Seamus Blake, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Jeff Watts. It’s a hand-in-glove match born of a rich history of shared associations going back to the early 1980s, when Kikoski and Watts were classmates at Berklee.

The improvisational springboard is a suite of contrasting yet interrelated Kokoski originals. “In a way, all the songs have some similar content, as the motifs are intertwined,” says the pianist. “Also, the emotional content is the same, so it’s almost like one song, one piece with all different sides.” The different sides, it should be pointed out, are truly different. Whether in the gritty blues of “Revival,” or the haunting balladry of “Disentanglement” or the spiraling trajectories of the title track, what is perhaps most impressive is the balance between clarity and passion. Whatever the tempo, whatever the meter, the music moves as if on its own. Everything is vital and strong. That’s because everybody digs in and listens.

Originally Published