Steve Kuhn: Trance (ECM 1052)

ECM 1052

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn piano, electric piano
Steve Swallow electric bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
Sue Evans percussion
Recorded November 11/12, 1974 at Generation Sound Studios, New York
Engineer: Tony May
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Perhaps no one on the ECM roster, other than Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea, has as enlightened an understanding of the keyboard as Steve Kuhn. His debut album for the label only grows profounder with age. The elegant title track says it all: a trance of epic proportions etched into a set of almost impossibly modest length. Its prominent bass line lays down an airy ostinato, through which Kuhn digs straight into the album’s molten interior. The tender Fender in “A Change Of Face” lulls us into thinking we’re in for another methodical number, opening instead into some blazing percussive interplay between Steve Swallow and Jack DeJohnette. “Squirt” begins and ends with the same staccato declarations, strung together by a continual stream of sustain-pedaled galaxies and brightened by Sue Evans’s always-colorful accents. “The Sandhouse” rolls along the keyboard, collecting debris as it gathers speed toward the hip electric style of “Something Everywhere.” Kuhn lets Swallow do most of the talking here, taking charge only briefly through a series of quick key changes, all while DeJohnette keeps up his end of the bargain and then some. “Silver” is the only piano solo and shows Kuhn at his lyrical best, which hones the raunchy “The Young Blade” into an even darker edge. Kuhn plays us out with “Life’s Backward Glance,” a curious metaphysical experiment in which he intones: “It was a dark and stormy night at sea. The captain called his men on deck and said, ‘Men, I have a story to tell.’ And this is the story he told. It was a dark and stormy night at sea. The captain called his men on deck and said, ‘Men, I have a story to tell.’ And this is the story he told.” The mise-en-abyme of this tale only serves to analogize the haunting enigma of his craft.

An historic example of Kuhn’s lush, romantic style, Trance speaks of something beyond the realm of even the most intense study; beyond the possibilities of unchecked ability, technical prowess, and sheer finesse. It is a journey that has been faithfully recorded for all its hardships and triumphs alike. Kuhn fills every space with something fresh and palpable, allowing us total freedom in the listening.

<< The Gary Burton Quintet with Eberhard Weber: Ring (ECM 1051)
>> Michael Naura: Vanessa (ECM 1053)

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