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Mostly Coltrane

Steve Kuhn Trio

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Album Review

Steve Kuhn was the original pianist in the John Coltrane Quartet, though he was replaced by McCoy Tyner after two months, as Tyner had been Coltrane's initial choice. Though he never recorded with Coltrane, he is steeped in the late saxophonist's music; this tribute covers music from many phases of his career. With tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist David Finck, and drummer Joey Baron (the latter two being part of the pianist's working trio), Kuhn had the challenge of tackling mostly well-known Coltrane compositions and standards without sounding like a clone, even though he was utilizing the same instrumentation. Fortunately, Kuhn's approach to playing is very distinctly different from McCoy Tyner, while any hints of Coltrane's influence on Lovano are brief. Billy Eckstine's "I Want to Talk About You" shimmers in the pianist's reserved, lyrical trio setting (omitting saxophone), while "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" bursts with energy, with Lovano making a delayed entrance well into the piece. One of the most unusual tracks is "Spiritual," with Lovano playing the tárogató, an Hungarian reed instrument that is related to the oboe, sounding a bit like a soprano sax but with a warmer, less shrill sound. Their extended workout of this Coltrane favorite is more reserved than the composer's several recordings, but here the quartet is at its most adventurous. Kuhn also explores late-period Coltrane songs, such as the meditative "Jimmy's Mode" (showcasing Finck) and the turbulent avant-garde-ish "Configuration," both of which remained unissued until 1994. Mostly Coltrane easily stands out as one of the best CDs among the countless tributes to John Coltrane and is one of Steve Kuhn's essential recordings within his extensive discography.

Mostly Coltrane, Steve Kuhn Trio
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