Steve Kuhn: Non-Fiction (ECM 1124)

 

 

 

Steve Kuhn
Non-Fiction

Steve Kuhn piano, percussion
Steve Slagle soprano and alto saxophones, flute, percussion
Harvie Swartz bass
Bob Moses drums
Recorded April 1978 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Steve Kuhn is the all-purpose element: his presence heightens any musical concoction. Like no jazz pianist I know, he is aware of the negative spaces between his notes and shapes those spaces to suit the emotional needs of the tune. And what a set of tunes we have in Non-Fiction, a sorely out-of-print firecracker in dire need of a digital fuse. Speaking of conflagration, nothing singes our brow in any Kuhn project quite like “Firewalk,” which, despite its characteristically spacious feel, is clear and present (I bow to the uncredited engineer on this one). Kuhn accolades aside, it’s the sopranism of reedman Steve Slagle that really sets these coals to glowing and cradles every assured step in the liberation of play. Bob Moses and Harvie Swartz—an ideally suited rhythm section if there ever was one—lock the “Random Thoughts” that follow into lively traction. Slagle opts for flute and alto sax over a constantly shifting sonic palette. Whenever he isn’t breathing, he keeps his hands busy with additional percussion. (Unfortunately, the latter comes across as intrusive to my ears during headphone listening. External speakers will remedy this.) “A Dance With The Wind” and “The Fruit Fly” reverse the scales with a collective dose of whimsy and nostalgia. Swartz is simply fantastic here, weaving deftly through Kuhn’s canvas of vamps with distinct yet harmonious brushstrokes of its own. If anything has been missing so far, we find it all collected in “Alias Dash Grapey,” which has it all: a sweeping piano intro, replete with unrestrained cries from Kuhn, a spirited collage of solos (Moses ever palpable), and a deep sense of communication.

 

This is a tight album with plenty to unpack through repeated listening. Its energies fluctuate in volume, but always to the beat of Kuhn’s erudite dictation. As worth tracking down on vinyl as it is waiting for an appearance on CD.

2 thoughts on “Steve Kuhn: Non-Fiction (ECM 1124)

  1. Excellent review of a rather scarce ECM album. Although musically splendid in every way, it still remains in the dark. I was lucky some years back to find really good vinyl rip mp3s of that disc which i put onto a good CD-R—it’s been one in the bunch of ECM LPs i bought milleniums ago, circa mid-1980’s. Here again the great Bob Moses (Metheny, Burton, etc.) does a pretty good job on drums. Kudos!

  2. i still have it on LP,waiting for years for the cd release ,talk about it with Mr Kuhn,but only ECM is responsible for that ,i got a shade of hope at the release of “Life’s backward glances” but i was disappointed,so pleased do it before i die ! Great music anyway!

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