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David Kikoski with John Patitucci and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts: Almost Twilight

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December of 1999 was a busy month for pianist David Kikoski. He recorded as leader of his own trio, as a member of a trio with Ralph Peterson and Gerald Cannon, and as a sideman in Conrad Herwig’s quintet. While all three of the resulting CDs display his rich, inventive improvising style, the first also documents the latest stage in his development as an imaginative composer.

For colleagues on Almost Twilight, his third Criss Cross recording in two years, Kikoski chose bassist John Patitucci and Jeff “Tain” Watts (Watts had also played on Kikoski’s previous release, Maze). The three of them went into the studio after a week of performing the album’s material at Sweet Basil. The result is a textbook example of empathetic trio interaction, where each member’s contributions enhance those of the others. Kikoski’s exploratory harmonic ventures are not only supported by his bassist, but are motivated by him as well. And Watts serves a similar rhythmic function for his rhythmic explorations. Kikoski’s uncliched compositions, some of which reach fruition as they are being performed and reflect the input of all three players, typically utilize unconventional forms and a variety of metrical approaches-the funky, down-home “Blues In the Face” standing out as a notable exception. But for music that’s so insistently challenging to the players, it’s also surprisingly accessible to listeners. Although it may saunter or race down unexpected paths, its progress seems perfectly logical and appropriate.

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