Kirk Knuffke / Jesse Stacken

Orange Was the Color

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For their second duo date, Kirk Knuffke and Jesse Stacken focused exclusively on the works of Charles Mingus. One important change prior to the session is Knuffke's switch from trumpet to cornet, resulting in a warmer, more intimate sound, while Stacken's versatile approach to piano adapts well to the bassist's demanding music. While earlier musicians have explored the Mingus songbook, Knuffke and Stacken chose music from several different periods and found new avenues into these timeless works, woodshedding over the music for over a year before entering the studio. Stacken's novel adaptation of "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love" utilizes a toy piano in spots, suggesting a mother displaying affection for her child. The shimmering, lyrical setting of Mingus' elegy "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" is full of naked, raw emotion. "So Long, Eric," the bassist's sendoff to Eric Dolphy (as he departed Mingus' band to play as a single in Europe) is a boisterous affair, with Knuffke preaching on his horn as Stacken plays a mix of gospel and hard bop to accompany him. Their exploration of "Celia," a musical portrait of Mingus' second wife, is another gem, capturing the duo facets of his gorgeous ballad. Longtime fans of Charles Mingus who know his recordings well will appreciate the duo's thoughtful, inventive interpretations of the bassist's compositions.