9 August 2006


The October Suite is a magnificent album by Steve Kuhn and Gary McFarland, was recorded in 1966 and released soon thereafter with little fanfare; it quickly went out of print but has been recently been re-issued on cd by Verve, though used copies of the LP are still around. It's a sterling example of chamber jazz, brimming with sensitivity and fire. McFarland (1933-71) is a nearly forgotten giant of jazz composing and arranging. Though he was prominent in the '60s, much of his best recorded work as a leader and in support of others is currently unavailable. The October Suite comprises six incandescent McFarland originals for piano trio (Kuhn, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Marty Morell) and either a string quartet or woodwinds and harp. Years ago, Kuhn allowed me to examine the scores; it's amazing how simple the individual parts are and yet how full the writing sounds. Kuhn and McFarland were close friends, and their personal and musical empathy is evident throughout. After four decades as a unique pianist, Kuhn remains undersung, and this recording is one of his -- and McFarland's -- finest achievements. --Bill Kirchner

No comments: