Joachim Kühn New Trio – Beauty And Truth – ACT

Joachim Kühn New Trio – Beauty And Truth – ACT9816-2 48:02 ****:

(Joachim Kühn – piano; Chris Jennings – bass; Eric Schaefer – drums)

Like many others, Joachim Kühn made the transition from classical prodigy to jazz. In 1964, the Slovenia-born pianist founded the first “free jazz” ensemble. He moved to Hamburg in 1966. Early in his career, he recorded for Impulse Records and played at the Monterey Jazz festival. In the late 1960’s he worked with Phil Woods, Don Cherry, Karl Berger, Slide Hampton and Jean-Luc Ponty. In the later 1970’s, he was involved in the fusion movement with Billy Cobham, Michel Brecker and Eddie Gomez. From 1996-2000, he had a group with avant-garde pioneer, Ornette Coleman. Kühn prefers working in a trio format, as he did for nearly thirty years with Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark and Daniel Humair.

Joachim Kühn has assembled a new trio for his current ACT release, Beauty And Truth. Backed by Chris Jennings on bass and Eric Schaefer on drums, the ensemble takes on unique covers and originals. The 72-year old pianist is fearless in his musical vision. The opening title track is a warm harmonic interlude of a Coleman song. It is lyrical and up-lifting.  Incredibly, he flexes his muscle on “The End”. Yes, Kühn selected The Doors’ apocalyptic nightmare over safer material. The pulsating groove by Jennings and Schaefer allows Kühn to examine the hypnotic nuances of the music with graceful flourishes. The album receives a jaunty lift on “Because Of Mouloud”. The piano establishes a punctuating rhythm that is offset by brilliant notation.

There are many styles and arrangements on Beauty And Truth. “Sleep On It” (by Stand High Patrol) employs a hybrid reggae tempo that is unusual. On “Intim” there is a near-dissonant reverie that has many classical aesthetics. Classical avant-garde frames the opening of “Transmitting”. But at 0:35 there is a nimble transition to a hypnotic groove. The chord manipulation is superb. Many have intoned…”when in doubt, try Gershwin. “Summertime” (from Porgy And Bess) has been a jazz standard for decades. Kühn delves into the melody and is not afraid to improvise. His ethereal cover makes it sound original. With similar bravado, he reinvents the second Doors opus, “Riders On The Storm” as a tough, rock-based jazz opus. (Note: George Winston also had a fascination with The Doors and recorded an entire album of the LA band.)

The eclectic agility of Kühn is reflected in a pair of songs by famed Polish film composer (Krzysztof Komeda (Knife In The Water, Cul-De-Sac, Rosemary’s Baby). “Sleep Safe And Warm” (from the 1968 hit Rosemary’s Baby) is a haunting waltz-time number that has atonal touches and grand flourishes. “Kattorna” is a composition from Komeda’a avant-garde jazz classic album, Astigmatic. The intricate, exotic tempos propel the scintillating runs by Kühn. Displaying a virtuosic connection with complex jazz, Gil Evans “Blues For Pablo” (from Miles Ahead) is bluesy and tender. At 2:35, the song intensifies and Kühn adds several colorful accents. Schaefer gets a brief solo as the finale builds to a climax before a slow fade conclusion.

Beauty And Truth is an apt title for this bold jazz!

Beauty And Truth
The End
Because Of Mouloud
Sleep On It
Riders On The Storm
Sleep Safe And Warm
Blues For Pablo

—Robbie Gerson

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