Quickening of the heart. Quickening of the mind. Quickening of the spirit. That sense of expectant anticipation of what's coming next - whether you like it or not. It: unbridled, uncontrollably imminent. You: unfettered, circuits open, ready for the ride. It's like an acute, brief, epiphanal "coming alive." It's the instant before the first luscious bite of that first, succulent, tree-ripened summer peach. The creeping, creaking pause before the rollercoaster tops the monster hill to go swooshroaring down for that thrilling feeling. The rush right before that slightly trepid first kiss. The upbeat right before the orchestra's opening notes of the Scherzo from Beethoven's Ninth.
With particularly moving music (especially improvised music), when those moments happen back-to-back, when one stirring moment inspires another, those are moments of magic, moments for which the listener and musician live.
Quickening could not be a better title for this recording of the Frank Kimbrough Trio. For Frank, who wrote and named the title tune, "Quickening" is "a coming to life: a beginning, where something - a person, an idea, a piece of music - takes on a life of its own. That's what happens when we play music. Otherwise, it's just notes on a page."
"My objective as a composer is to write as little as possible and to trust the other musicians to do what they do best," says Frank. "When I pick players for the trio, or for any other group, I pick them for their judgment, for what they bring to the table. It's a cooperative effort in that I don't ask anything of anyone except that they participate fully in the experience of making music together."
The communal experience of music is essential to Frank, who is one of the founders of the Jazz Composers Collective, a musician-run, non-profit organization based in New York, dedicated to advancing the development and presentation of music by forward-thinking composers. Since 1992, the JCC has created a safe and nurturing environment for creating and presenting music, especially through its annual subscription series of concerts held at The New School.
Though Frank is at home playing in a duo with Joe Locke, in his quartet Noumena, in the five-to-seven member Herbie Nichols Project, or even in a big band with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, his favorite setting is the trio, which he calls "liberating." Explains Frank, "because there are only three players, the music tends to develop organically and to be more interactive." On Quickening, his collaborators are of similar mind about the organic and interactive nature of making music, having worked together in JCC and other ensembles.
Ben Allison, who heads and founded the JCC and who co-leads the Herbie Nichols Project with Frank, was named by Down Beat as one of the "25 rising jazz stars of the future" and has received numerous awards individually for composition and performance and for his ensembles' recordings. Ben's latest CD, Peace Pipe (Palmetto Records), was named one of the best recordings of 2002 by The New York Times, JazzTimes, and a host of other publications and journalists worldwide.
Jeff Ballard, a much-in-demand percussionist and regular member of Chick Corea's groups, is a frequent contributor to JCC ensembles. Jeff has also played and recorded with Danilo Perez, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Guillermo Klein, and Joshua Redman and recently has been involved in a cooperative trio with Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier. On this, the trio's second recording (the first was Chant, on the Igmod label), the program spotlights Frank's original compositions spanning his musical career.
"Cascade Rising," untitled at the time of this live performance, got its title courtesy of an audience member's e-mail to Frank a couple of days after the performance. "I've always have a hard time coming up with titles for my tunes," admits Frank. "The suggestion came from someone I don't know, but I thought the title was a good one, so to whomever emailed us that day, thanks!"
"Chant" started out as an improvised piece on the trio's first recording. Explains Frank, "It's totally open and can go anywhere, with starts and stops and lots of interactivity along the way - a journey for the trio's collective imagination."
The title for the tango-like, somewhat menacing minor-keyed "Svengali" is an anagram for Gil Evans, who inspired the piece. "It's funny because Gil was a Svengali in a sense to many musicians, though I think the word is usually associated with an evil person, and Gil was as sweet a guy as you could ever meet," adds Frank.
A long-time favorite of Frank's fans, "TMI" ("Tim" spelled sideways, written with saxophonist Tim Chambers in mind), gets a funky, Keith Jarrett like reworking that Frank says "may have been influenced more by Howlin' Wolf." It's a so-called "natural blues," where the chords and meter change when they need to. "We always played it very freely, out of time. Then one day this version just happened," chuckles Frank. "We're always surprising each other."
Surprising each other ... and surprising the audience. Quickening all around. Three virtuoso players and master improvisors generating one spine-tingling moment after another as composition, extemporization, and grand collegiality play themselves out in "real time" for the audience in the hall ... and now for you."