Kikoski/Carpenter/Novak/Sheppard: From the Hip

Pianist David Kikoski would have made a marvelous Jazz Messenger; his blend of block chords and stirring single-note runs are well suited for hard bop. But tutelage under a more variegated, just slightly less intense timekeeper-bandleader, Roy Haynes, helped broaden Kikoski’s palette while reducing his notoriety relative to the Messenger alumni among his brethren.

From the Hip is a fairly rare Kikoski showcase, belatedly released after seven years. In 2006, Rising Jazz Stars Foundation President George Klabin invited the pianist to perform at his private studio in front of a small audience. The sidemen Kikoski chose-saxophonist Bob Sheppard, drummer Gary Novak and the late bassist Dave Carpenter-plus the standards-heavy program presaged a thoroughly mainstream engagement. But whenever he chooses to snare the spotlight (not often enough), Kikoski makes the material glisten. He seizes on Cedar Walton’s fervent “Bolivia” with the appropriate two-handed gusto; ornaments “How Deep Is the Ocean” and “If You Could See Me Now” in a manner distinctive from Bill Evans, with the latter imbued with after-hours blues sauce; expertly scatters and re-organizes “Autumn Leaves” with a whirlwind of phrases; and delivers a magisterial prelude that leads to a rousing rendition of the closing number, Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.”

The sidemen are stolidly capable. Sheppard makes the most of his feature on “My One and Only Love,” letting his emotion flow through the classic ballad with just the right mix of restraint and resonant tonality. But From the Hip is mostly for the Kikoski fans in the house.