We don’t necessarily need a reminder about pianist Steve Kuhn’s eminence in the trio domain; his work in that realm has been well-documented and greatly respected. It is, however, always a pleasure to receive a gift such as this.
To and From the Heart capitalizes on the creative rapport that Kuhn has developed with bassist Steve Swallow, a friend and collaborator for more than half a century, and drummer Joey Baron, an important part of Kuhn’s artistic orbit for well over two decades. Their maiden voyage as a band, 2012’s Wisteria, offered everything from bright tidings to breezy notions, leaving no doubt as to the strengths and subtleties possessed by all parties. The follow-up, 2016’s At This Time…, was made at a moment when the group was hitting its stride at New York’s Birdland and gearing up for a European tour, lending the music a greater immediacy.
This latest chapter in the story is both a collection of comforts and a master class in elevated interplay. It’s essentially a low-key communion between three veterans with much to offer and nothing to prove. The album opens on Swallow’s casually swinging “Thinking Out Loud,” moves on with a pleasantly paced “Pure Imagination,” and reaches center with the bassist’s achingly beautiful “Away” and a ruminative “Never Let Me Go.” The penultimate piece—Michika Fukumori’s “Into the New World”—exhibits a slightly more extroverted character than much of what precedes it, but it’s Kuhn’s own “Trance/Oceans in the Sky” that has the greatest impact. That lengthy closer’s rubato meditations, gliding gestures, and bouts of intensity all speak to the honesty and truth-seeking spirit at the core of this trio.