Richard Kimball, solo piano – The Art of Aging – Richard Kimball Publishing RK7339, 57:42 ****:
Most jazz artists don’t get a gig which lasts for a long time. One- or two-night stands while on the road are par for the course; a few weeks at a local venue can occur. New York City pianist Richard Kimball, though, may have set some kind of record for his regular appearances. For the past three decades, he has been co-house pianist, along with Brazilian pianist Dom Salvador, at The River Café under the Brooklyn Bridge, where he plays his distinctive arrangements of tunes from the Great American Songbook and jazz standards. Kimball also has studied, composed and staged classical music and his versatility gives his composed and performed material a wider musical vocabulary than the norm, which provides his music a dynamic and engaging shift. This talent is well represented on Kimball’s new solo release, the all-original, ten-track outing The Art of Aging. The title reveals the album’s thematic continuity, with personalized and often emotionally-shaded pieces which reflect the subtle aspects of getting older. Five of the ten tracks were inspired by original cues Kimball wrote for a chamber music score for the documentary, “Grow Old Along with Me,” which aired on some PBS television stations. The other music echoes the thoughts which went into those five tracks: an expression on how it feels to become older and how different people manage the transition.
Two compositions are linked by the viewpoint of a father edging toward life’s horizon and the bond he has for his two sons. Opener “Make Hay While the Sun Shines” is written in a three-part structure which underscores the idea that time is important and not to be wasted. Kimball commences with an introduction which utilizes a 20th-century classical form and then modifies the tune via improvisation into several styles and rhythms which incorporate jazz and indirect Brazilian musical elements. The next cut, “Chaconne for My Sons,” is founded on a type of musical composition popular in the baroque era and which Kimball employs as a tool for variants on a repeated eight-bar harmonic progression. The repetition of a tender bass line and an accompanying rhythmic figure beautifully captures Kimball’s desire for a bright future for his children as well his sensitive blend of both classical music and jazz.
Longtime companionship is another constituent of going from younger years to retirement. Kimball includes two numbers which mirror maturing romance. The love ballad “Patricia’s Theme” has a lengthy rubato prelude and the tune’s main body flows with a mild swing rhythm where Kimball recurrently returns to the pleasant opening melody. The very brief motif, “The Hawk,” is used to close out “Patricia’s Theme,” and fosters the image of a hawk and its mate circling together as a metaphor for life-long devotion to a spouse
Two highlights benefit from Latin musical influences. “Blackout in Bolivia”—inspired by the lead-in section of Jacques Ibert’s impressionistic piano piece, “The Little White Donkey”—is Kimball’s tale of a lonely journey at night through the alto plano (Spanish for high plain) area of Bolivia. Rather than a shadowy and dark-tinged arrangement, Kimball presents a sprightly left-hand rhythm while he offers an exploratory, right-hand alternate. Another upbeat work is “Global Exchange,” which is a tribute to the San Francisco-based group which promotes human rights and social justice around the globe. In honor of the organization’s endeavors in Central and South America, Kimball applies a two-part theme which has a cheerful Latin cadence. There is other excellent material to listen to as well, including the easygoing title track, the hymn-like “The Tree of Life” and the ethereal, afterlife reflection “I’ll Be Somewhere.”
The album’s sound quality is sterling. Kimball’s Hamburg Steinway Model D is wonderfully recorded. Sometimes solo piano ventures have a cold characteristic due to microphone placement or other issues, but Kimball’s piano has a naturally warm veneer which adeptly suits his sometimes melancholy and sometimes affectionate compositions. [Don’t be misled if you should Google Richard Kimball—there is another one with more links who is a Goldman Sachs exec, recently divorced and having wild parties written up in the tabloids…Ed.]
Make Hay While the Sun Shines; Chaconne for My Sons; I’ll Be Somewhere; Patricia’s Theme; The Hawk; The Art of Aging; Blackout in Bolivia; The Tree of Life; Global Exchange; Hymn for the Farmer.
A 10-year anniversary of Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society gets a welcome vinyl upgrade.