Kirk Knuffke Trio

Gravity Without Airs
(Tao Forms)

Editing the cerebral explorations of Gravity Without Airs must have been challenging for cornetist Kirk Knuffke, bassist Michael Bisio and Matthew Shipp, the pianist who gives this drumless trio its gravity. Rewarding, too: This hour-and-a-half from the Kirk Knuffke Trio bristles with originality and daring.

These works, seven on each of two disks, burst with fresh notions of musical collaboration, from the playfulness of “Time Is Another River” to “Blinds,” a mercurial track Knuffke launches birdlike, Shipp placating, Bisio muttering below.

The journey begins with the title track. Knuffke enters breathily, slowly brightening against Shipp’s blocky playing and Bisio’s careful bass. Shipp and Bisio weave a quarter of the tune in, Shipp releasing a solo of commanding touch. Knuffke returns, sparely yet declaratively, Bisio and Shipp protecting him in this tune of whirls and eddies. It is improvisatory in the best sense, never disclosing all at once, always promising and exciting. Knuffke and the increasingly percussive Shipp become explosive, Bisio struggling to keep them in check. The escalating drama draws one in as these musical sages advance and retreat, upping the intensity.

“June Stretched” may be the highlight of the second disk. It starts with a Bisio-Shipp duet that builds a platform for Knuffke. He and Shipp circle each other, ultimately going down different, improbably intersecting paths. The dynamics are motile, the trajectory of the tune steady if unpredictable.

“Today For Today” ends this triumphant, modern jazz collection on a spare, warm note. It’s a beautiful tune that feels like a benediction. Don’t miss Francis Davis’ spirited liner notes.

On Sale Now
September 2023
Kris Davis
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