By Bill Milkowski | Published November 2021
Coming on the heels of 2018’s audacious and irrepressibly swinging six-CD set Monk’s Dreams: The Complete Compositions Of Thelonious Monk (Sunnyside), the late pianist’s posthumously released Ancestors, a serene trio outing with bassist Masa Yamaguchi and cornetist Kirk Knuffke, represents another spectrum of his broad musical expression.
There’s an intimate, ECM-ish quality to crystalline numbers like the droning, raga-flavored opener “Waiting In Santander,” the delicate and atmospheric “November” and the ethereal “Air.” The sedate title track is a meditation on Kimbrough’s southern roots, while the spacious “Eyes,” an intuitive duet between cornet and piano percussion, breaks the tranquil spell. The playfully off-kilter and slightly dissonant “Jimmy G,” a tribute to Jimmy Giuffre, is perhaps the only thing here that follows in the spirit of Kimbrough’s Monk set.
The noirish “Beginning” shifts subtly from dark to light, while “Over” recalls the pianist’s interactive collaboration with Yamaguchi and drummer-composer Paul Motian on his 2006 Palmetto album Play.
Knuffke, a true spirit voice throughout this session, elevates with his uncommonly expressive playing, particularly evident on his improv duo with Kimbrough on “Solid,” and also on “Union Square,” the only tune where Kimbrough lays out. The program concludes lyrically with Maryanne de Prophetis’ “All These Years,” a darkly hued number that Kimbrough frequently played in concert.
Introspective, peaceful and decidedly personal, this collection of largely first takes is pure magic.
Ancestors: Waiting In Santander; Air; November; Ancestors; Eyes; Jimmy G; Beginning; Union Square; Over; Solid; All Years. (72:00)
Personnel: Frank Kimbrough, piano; Kirk Knuffke, cornet; Masa Kamaguchi, bass.
Ordering Info: sunnysiderecords.com