Frank Kimbrough

The Willow

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This 2002 effort represents the follow-up to the duo's previous recording, Saturn's Child. In addition, when you have a good thing going, it generally makes sense to "keep the ball rolling," as some might say. With this release, pianist Frank Kimbrough and vibist Joe Locke garner superior support from woodwind ace Tim Ries and percussionist Jeff Ballard, who lend their wares on several tracks. To that end, these folks bring a lot of expertise to the table, witnessed by affiliations with composer/arranger Maria Schneider and the Jazz Composers Collective, amid first-call session status. The duo's perceptive interplay and majestically enacted arrangements signify an element that cannot be taught in music institutions. Whether performing as a twosome or a quartet, the musicians communicate a myriad of atmospheric passages featuring implied rhythms and multicolored pastiches of sound. Locke and Kimbrough are a remarkable duo, as they pursue complementary tonalities in concert with soul-stirring balladry, jazz-waltz frameworks, and much more. But part of the beauty is found within their extraordinary synergy. Sure, they open it up on occasion, although there are a few interludes that might prompt the listener to shed a tear or two. A prerequisite for powerful music (regardless of genre) does not necessarily warrant an edict consisting of pounding rhythms or blistering opuses. Here, the music tells a story that emanates from the heart, as though the artists were overcome with some inexplicable spiritual aura. Simply stated, Kimbrough and Locke have produced a luminous gem that should easily rank among the top two or three releases of 2002, or any year for that matter.

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