Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Tim Kuhl – King

Drummers don’t usually get credit as bandleader even though in the purest sense of the word they are – the good ones anyway. So maybe for that reason drummer-led ensembles tend to be especially good. This one is no exception. Tim Kuhl’s second album takes the warm accessibility of his first cd Ghost and raises it a notch: as melodic, interesting jazz cds go, this is one of 2009’s more memorable efforts. Quite possibly this is enhanced by the presence of Jon Irabagon (winner of the most recent Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition) on tenor. He’s unpredictable in the best possible ways, often very deviously (especially in his work with Mostly Other People Do the Killing) – here, he alternates between straightforward, buoyant melody and frequent cloudbursts of bop. Guitarist Nir Felder‘s thoughtful, deliberately paced, contemplative phrasing is equally interesting and often generates some striking contrasts. Kuhl and bassist Aidan Carroll keep things moving forward tersely while trombonist Rick Parker layers alternately bright and murky shades.

The first couple of tracks segue into each other, Irabagon taking it toward bop, the guitars then creating what is in effect a horn chart with some deliciously interesting textures. Track three features Felder in characteristically expansive mood, Carroll echoing him aptly, followed by a stately, vintage 50s horn passage. Track four is darker, more pensive, guitar thick with sustain and reverb with an early 70s feel, Parker leading the procession as tension builds, hinting at rage but never going there.

Irabagon squeaks and shimmies over a low rumble, then the intriguing sixth track kicks in. Much of it is essentially two simultaneous pieces going in opposite directions, brought back together brightly by Irabagon. And then a lull, a sprightly Felder solo, into and then out of focus. The cd’s concluding cuts have Parker contributing both nebulous and bracing ambience, Felder chasing a Carroll rumble, some Bill Frisell-isms, a low, expressive Irabagon solo that literally jumps out of nowhere, a big, sunbaked blues guitar interlude and a surprisingly off-kilter ending. It would be wishful thinking to hope that someday jazz might reclaim its place as the western world’s default pop and dance music (which it was for decades), but this is the kind of jazz that could make a fan out of  just about everyone: it’s catchy, it’s mostly upbeat and the groove doesn’t quit. And you can see it live: the Tim Kuhl Group are at Zebulon on 9/15 at around 10.

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September 2, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Tim Kuhl – Ghost

If you’re familiar with the popular bar band the Izzys (who’ve been playing Saturday nights at Lakeside off and on for the better part of two years now) and wonder where they get that swinging Charlie Watts groove, that’s Tim Kuhl behind the drums. Kuhl also leads a first-class jazz sextet. This cd, Ghost, is their auspicious debut. It’s an impressively diverse collection of melodically and rhythmically captivating songs without words. Kuhl’s compositions are remarkably tuneful, and the crew he’s assembled: Mark Aanderud on piano; Nir Felder on electric guitar; JC Kuhl on saxes; Rick Parker on trombone and Jeff Reed on bass sink their teeth into them with gusto.

Predictably, the cd’s upbeat opening track Versus kicks off with a brief drum figure, anchored by soaring, tandem horns over vividly incisive piano and frenetic guitar runs. The title track is a beautiful song, even if it’s not particularly sepulchral, starting slowly with pensive electric guitar chords, in fact an indie rock chord progression, followed by buoyant horns. Eventually the piano comes in, comfortable and loungey, running down from the tinkling upper registers and back again. Then the trombone kicks in and the pace picks up before reverting to the original theme, the horns holding everything together. Dr. Doom builds over a spy theme in 9/4 on the piano as the guitar and horns mix and match and intermingle crazily. Nemesis reverts to a darkly thoughtful vibe, Aanderud’s coloristic piano matched by JC Kuhl’s balmy, ambient lines.

The tongue-in-cheek Eye of the Beholder begins with a drum solo, a strikingly terse fanfare on mostly the snare and the toms, the kind of thing you’d play if you were in a brick-lined room so as not to damage your ears or drive out the crowd with all the high frequencies bouncing off the walls. Likewise, Boogie Monsters of Swing is neither a boogie nor straight-up swing; instead, the rhythm section and piano get busy while the horns announce an action theme before jumping into the pandemonium. The cd concludes with a brief guitar fragment that might have fallen out onto the cutting room floor. Rating: four smacks upside the head with a drumstick – it’s not everyday that you hear original jazz as melodic or interesting as this. Kuhl’s next jazz gig is August 17 at 8 at the Lucky Cat with a new crew: stay tuned.

July 25, 2008 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment