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Steve Kuhn: Promises Kept

Jazz albums with strings are like those urban locations where restaurant after restaurant keeps failing. Apparently, jazz recordings with violin backgrounds and restaurants in certain spots seem like such good ideas that there is always someone ready to try again, in defiance of the odds against success.

Most jazz albums with strings don’t work because the plush textures that are supposed to add depth and dimension become static and disembodied, and the intended sweetness soon cloys. But Promises Kept is a sublime exception, a work of luminous realization and emotional impact and wholeness. Pianist Steve Kuhn (for whom this album was “a life’s dream”) leverages the strengths of strings in a jazz context (their direct appeal to the emotions, their scale and weight, their sensual allure) while avoiding the aforementioned pitfalls.

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