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Steve Kuhn: At This Time

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Steve Kuhn’s At This Time… is defined by a kind of heartbeat-groove propulsion: Steve Swallow’s clean, pick-pushed electric bass figures nestle against Joey Baron’s free-tinted but supportive drums, as the leader’s articulate piano lines sound the melodies and his unpredictably placed chords fill the spaces between and around his partners. The disc came about organically, as these nine tracks were recorded on the heels of the trio’s three-night engagement last year at Birdland. The players have achieved a comfortable, lived-in sound, an appealing setting for standards, less-familiar gems and Kuhn originals.

Kuhn contributes two pieces, placed consecutively about midway through the album, both previously sung by his frequent duo partner, Sheila Jordan. The samba-tinged “All the Rest Is the Same” opens up for an extended, loping solo turn by Swallow, and Baron’s bracing trap-kit build up, while the pianist goes it alone on “The Feeling Within,” a lush ballad.

Other tunes come from stage, screen and the jazz repertory. The trio launches the album on a high note with “My Shining Hour,” where Kuhn’s unaccompanied figure leads into infectious, loose-limbed swing capped with an extended back-and-forth with Baron. Al Cohn’s jaunty “Ah Moore” features a melodic workout by Baron, over Swallow’s pulsing lines and Kuhn’s accents, while Quincy Jones’ “The Pawnbroker,” from the 1965 film of the same name, is a moody ballad bolstered by a floating feel. Swallow stays mostly in the high register for his solo on “Carousel,” before Kuhn takes over for a complex but engaging improvisation, one of many offered here. The set also includes appealing takes on Leonard Bernstein’s “Lonely Town” and Kurt Weill’s “This Is New.”

Originally Published