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Kikoski/Carpenter/Novak/Sheppard: From the Hip

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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.”

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