Joachim Kühn

Touch The Light
(ACt)

Although originally proposed by ACT founder Siggi Loch as an album of ballads, pianist Joachim Kühn’s Touch The Light is more about the reflective possibilities of slow tempo than the usual emotions — longing, sorrow, romance, hope — associated with balladry. As such, when he leans into Bob Marley’s gently uplifting “Redemption Song,” the easygoing pace allows him to stagger the accompaniment into lazily syncopated chords.

Like much of Touch The Light, “Redemption Song” bypasses the head-solo-head form to present the song itself as improvisation. Kühn expresses through the way he reshapes the melody and harmony instead of flights of improvisatory flash. On “Purple Rain,” for example, he uses the flat-third bluesy-ness of Prince’s verse to extend into jazz territory.

Kühn’s approach doesn’t always work. His version of the Peggy Lee hit “Fever” sticks too close to the blues bass line to offer much breadth, and despite his best efforts, “Blue Velvet” never sounds quite as profound as he’d like. But his playing is always deftly shaded and tunefully charming, ensuring that Touch The Light is pleasant even when it isn’t perfect.