Wisteria

Steve Kuhn, Steve Swallow, Joey Baron

Wisdom and wistfulness are intertwined in “Wisteria”, whose title track, written by Art Farmer, takes us back to the early 60s, when both Steve Kuhn and Steve Swallow sang softly of the blues in the trumpeter-flugelhornist’s band. They’ve shared a lot of history since then. Swallow played on Kuhn’s classic “Trance”; Kuhn played on Swallow’s “Home” and “So There”. Drummer Joey Baron has been heard with Kuhn on ECM discs including “Remembering Tomorrow” and the dazzling tribute disc “Mostly Coltrane”. This new album takes a fresh look at several pieces heard in Kuhn’s orchestral “Promises Kept” collection, but alongside the aching balladry there is also some driving hard bop (on “A Likely Story”) , a brace of Swallow tunes (“Dark Glasses”), Carla Bley’s gospel-tinged “Permanent Wave” and the Brazilian “Romance” by Dori Caymmi… In all, a varied programme that the trio seems to sail through effortlessly, master musicians beyond the need to prove anything, creating the agreeable illusion that this demanding music is playing itself.

Featured Artists Recorded

September 2011, Avatar Studios, New York

Original Release Date

20.04.2012

  • 1Chalet
    (Steve Kuhn)
    06:23
  • 2Adagio
    (Steve Kuhn)
    07:03
  • 3Morning Dew
    (Steve Kuhn)
    06:33
  • 4Romance
    (Paulo Pinheiro, Tracy Mann, Dori Caymmi)
    04:27
  • 5Permanent Wave
    (Carla Bley)
    06:36
  • 6A Likely Story
    (Steve Kuhn)
    06:43
  • 7Pastorale
    (Steve Kuhn)
    06:15
  • 8Wisteria
    (Art Farmer)
    05:47
  • 9Dark Glasses
    (Steve Swallow)
    05:52
  • 10Promises Kept
    (Steve Kuhn)
    05:31
  • 11Good Lookin' Rookie
    (Steve Swallow)
    05:50
The wise and wistful title track of “Wisteria”, written by Art Farmer, takes us back to the early 60s, when both Steve Kuhn and Steve Swallow sang softly of the blues in the trumpeter-flügelhornist’s band. Swallow was also a member of the trio Kuhn formed shortly thereafter: they’ve shared a lot of history since then. Steve Swallow played on Kuhn’s 1974 classic “Trance” while Kuhn contributed to Swallow’s “Home” and “So There” in 1979 and 2005 respectively. Drummer Joey Baron has been heard with Kuhn on ECM discs including “Remembering Tomorrow” (ECM 1553, 1995) and the dazzling tribute disc “Mostly Coltrane” (ECM 2099, 2008).

This new album takes a fresh look at several pieces last heard on record in Kuhn’s orchestral “Promises Kept” collection – “Promises Kept” itself, “Adagio”, “Morning Dew” and “Pastorale”. Kuhn’s compositions, few in number but robust and adaptable, have often lent themselves to quite different interpretations. If anything, these small group versions emphasize the emotional core of the material. Counterbalancing the yearning balladry, the album also includes driving, exciting hard bop (on “A Likely Story”, for instance, and Swallow’s “Good Lookin’ Rookie), Carla Bley’s gospel-tinged “Permanent Wave”, and the Brazilian “Romance” by Dori Caymmi… It’s a varied programme which the trio seems to sail through effortlessly, musicians secure in their craft, beyond the need to prove anything, creating the agreeable illusion that this demanding music is playing itself.

Swallow and Kuhn after a half-century of collaborations indeed know each other’s playing well; in accord at a very high level, they share the same love of melody, and develop their improvisational ideas together, as is already apparent on the buoyant opening track, Kuhn’s “Chalet” where soloist and accompanist roles rotate. The resourceful Joey Baron, one of Jazz’s finest drummers, a player with access to the whole tradition, is also thoroughly at home in Kuhn’s oeuvre, having worked with the pianist, in diverse settings for more than 20 years. Surprising, then, that the recording of “Wisteria”, in New York’s Avatar Studio in September 2011, marked the first occasion that Kuhn, Swallow and Baron had ever played in trio together.

As writer Bob Blumenthal noted at the time of “Promises Kept”, “Kuhn’s touch, which illuminates the subtlest harmonic nuances and allows both shimmering upper-register glissandos and booming bass chords to emerge with pristine clarity and keenly calibrated force has long been one of his defining traits”. The famous touch – which Kuhn often credits to early lessons with Margaret Chaloff – is in full bloom on “Wisteria”.