Joachim Kühn New Trio – Love & Peace
(ACT Music 9861-2. CD review by Brian Marley)
Joachim Kühn’s earlier trio with J-F Jenny-Clark (double bass) and Daniel Humair (drums) was one of the great undersung groups of the 1980s and ‘90s. They mixed lyrical free-flowing improvisation with memorable compositions (mostly penned by Kühn) and a smattering of standards, to which they always brought something fresh and worthwhile. Albums such as From Time to Time Free and Live 1989 (both on CMP) were benchmark recordings in terms of strong group interaction and a well-balanced programme of material.
Initially that trio brought a high degree of edginess and urgency to its music that became, in later recordings, less hard driven, more measured, but no less accomplished. Although it wasn’t formed until 2015, the New Trio, with Chris Jennings (bass) and Eric Schaefer (drums) follows on naturally from the later Kühn/Jenny-Clark/Humair recordings.
Love & Peace, their second album, follows the critically acclaimed Beauty & Truth (ACT Music, 2016). The music on both recordings is organic in nature and deeply felt. It’s also deeply satisfying. Tracks are fairly brief – only three of the 11 top the five-minute mark – and, as one would imagine, the solos are also brief, brief but not insubstantial. Greater emphasis is put on group interplay, mood and atmosphere, things the trio does supremely well.
On Beauty & Truth, they covered two tracks by The Doors (Riders on the Storm and The End), and on the new album there’s a beautifully limpid reading of The Crystal Ship. These tunes lend themselves well to Schaefer’s less orthodox rhythmic approach, drawing inspiration as much from rock as jazz. Even though he doesn’t always play what you expect to hear in a jazz piano trio, it’s always the right thing. Consider, for example, the tribal thump that underpins Kühn’s New Pharoah. When the track begins, what Shaefer does seems anomalous until the theme slides into place and it suddenly makes sense.
The trio also tackle one of Ornette Coleman’s lesser-known compositions, Night Plans, which Kühn originally recorded in duo with Coleman on the album Colors: Live from Leipzig (Harmolodic/Verve, 1997). The rich harmonic material that Kühn draws out of Coleman’s fairly straightforward melody is really something special. Like everything else on Love & Peace, repeated listening is required to fully appreciate the subtle complexity of this trio’s music, but it’s well worth the effort.