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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jesse Stacken & Kirk Knuffke - Mockingbird (Steeplechase, 2009) ****

Usually I try to be cautious to keep close to this blog's profile in terms of the music that I review : adventurous, innovative, expressive, boundary-shifting music, with deep artistic vision. But once in a while it's difficult to ignore or not to share my enthusiasm for music that does not fit this category.

Pianist Jesse Stacken and trumpeter Kirk Knuffke tackle the music of Ellington and Monk, but then in a context and with a stylistic revision that belongs to early jazz, and on top of this with the technical refinement of a classical chamber ensemble. The end result is musical joy from the very first note to the last. This is an ode to the beauty of composition, melody and interplay, without any further pretense or ambition. Whether "Bright Mississippi" or "Misterioso", or especially "Skippy", the versions this fantastic duo brings of Monk's compact music is crystal clear, precise and joyful. Alternating these with Ellington's more melancholy and bluesy compositions "Isfahan" and "Sunset and The Mocking Bird" is a great idea because it adds variation. The album ends with "Four In One", with both musicians playing the tune in unison at breackneck speed, and in truth, a piece to laugh out loud just from sheer listening enjoyment at their skills and at the end result. Not free, not avant-garde, but a daring and refreshing take on two icons of jazz history by two young musicians whose normal biotope is modern jazz. Enjoy!

© stef