Frank Kimbrough

Air

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Frank Kimbrough has been heard in a variety of settings along the way. But Air, which was recorded in 2003 and 2007, marks the first time that one of his studio albums has contained unaccompanied solo piano exclusively. That isn't to say that Kimbrough never played unaccompanied before this release; in Air's liner notes, the acoustic pianist explains that he performed hundreds of unaccompanied solo gigs at New York City's Village Corner (a Greenwich Village club) back in the 1980s. But in the studio, he stuck to group recordings before Air, which range from Kimbrough originals to performances of Paul Motian's "It Should've Happened a Long Time Ago," Duke Ellington's "Wig Wise," and two Thelonious Monk pieces: "Coming on the Hudson" and "Jackie-ing." One certainly cannot accuse Kimbrough of inundating listeners with warhorses; "Wig Wise" is hardly one of the Duke's better known compositions, and "Coming on the Hudson" is a Monk song that hasn't been recorded nearly as many times as, say, "Well, You Needn't" or "In Walked Bud." Unfortunately, some jazz artists won't touch a tune unless it's a standard that has been beaten to death -- and it is good to know that Kimbrough is more adventurous when it comes to choosing material. That said, Air is a disappointment. Kimbrough has recorded some fine albums along the way, but his pianism isn't nearly as inspired or memorable on Air as it is on Play, Chant, or Lonely Woman. Kimbrough excels on those releases, whereas on Air, he merely simmers and doesn't go the extra mile the way he has in the past. Air isn't a bad album, but still, it's disappointing to see Kimbrough offering a disc that is merely competent when it should have been great.

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