Steve Kuhn: Like Sonny
Steve Kuhn (piano)
Mostly Coltrane (ECM 2099)
Composed by John Coltrane.
Recorded: New York December 2008
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
In one of those rare, once-in-a-lifetime convergences, pianist Steve Kuhn got a call to play with John Coltrane for a gig at the Jazz Gallery in New York City in 1960. Kuhn had been playing with trumpeter Kenny Dorham and was well on his way to establishing himself as a player with a unique voice. The
ever-searching Trane was still formulating the next stage of his musical development. The collaboration only lasted for three months but it made an indelible mark on the twenty-one year old Kuhn. Coltrane’s dedication to his music influenced the young pianist, not so much by altering his developing style, but by strengthening his resolve toward following his own path. With this tribute album, Kuhn has carefully chosen songs that demonstrate where he and Coltrane have some common ground.
On “Like Sonny”, a Coltrane composition dedicated to Sonny Rollins, Kuhn has followed his natural instincts to use a memorable melody as a vehicle for improvisation. Kuhn’s technique is burnished with classical undertones that bring an elegance and grace to his playing. Kuhn creates a sound that utilizes the full range of the keyboard, bespeaks of a mastery of touch and evokes a haunting beauty that is never self-indulgent.
Bassist and long-time collaborator David Finck has developed a truly intuitive language with Kuhn. Baron’s deft polytonal touch is reminiscent of Elvin Jones but more delicate and spidery than his predecessor. Lovano’s controlled cool delivery is appropriately more deferential to Rollins than to Coltrane and has a beautiful rich tonal quality that is very compatible with Kuhn’s own natural lyricism on this song. Together this quartet has created a worthy homage to the Kuhn-Coltrane experience.
Reviewer: Ralph A. Miriello