Steve Kuhn Trio: To and From the Heart (Sunnyside)

A review of the pianist's third album with Steve Swallow and Joey Baron

"To and From the Heart" by the Steve Kuhn Trio
“To and From the Heart” by the Steve Kuhn Trio

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.

Preview, buy or download To and From the Heart on Amazon!