Cornetist/composer Kirk Knuffke leads his acclaimed trio with bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bill Goodwin at the renowned Dutch jazz club Bimhuis for his first-ever concert album, 'Brightness: Live In Amsterdam' available February 21 on Royal Potato Family. The recording presents Knuffke and company performing with startling inventiveness, moment-to-moment creative sparks and alchemical reactivity. The seven track collection, to be released on vinyl, CD and digital formats, is available for pre-order, while the first single, "The Mob, The Crowd, The Mass" is out now to stream and share.
"Mark and Bill are such legends. It's an honor that they want to go along on this ride with me," Knuffke says. "With this trio I try to make the music as minimal as possible so that we remain free to go in many, many different directions. It's amazing how little it can take to get these guys going off somewhere really special. Musically it's a series of amazing surprises all the time."
It may come as something of a surprise that Knuffke has never released a live date as a leader until now. While he's been an essential component of many a collaborator's concert albums and logged countless hours on stages around the world, his own catalogue has been wholly crafted in recording studios.
Documenting his bandleader debut at the storied Bimhuis is just one way in which 'Brightness: Live in Amsterdam' marks an important first for Knuffke. It also offers his first ventures as a vocalist, a practice he's engaged in often at home and occasionally on stage, but never until now captured for posterity.
"All of my music comes from singing," Knuffke explains. "As a horn player if you sit down at a piano and start plunking out notes, they're not necessarily the sounds that come right out of your brain. I write from my horn and from singing. Then my wife encouraged me to sing on my gigs, and since so much of this music was written from poetry, I thought it needed to be a part of the show to complete the image and story of these pieces."
In other ways, though, 'Brightness: Live In Amsterdam' is a continuation of the dazzling evolution of Knuffke's musical identity, a combination of tradition-minded swing and inspiration—embracing freedom through a freewheeling looseness that leaves room for a brilliantly focused vision. It also present Knuffke reconvening the unexpected trio with Goodwin and Helias that debuted on his acclaimed 2015 release, 'Arms & Hands.'
Knuffke's particular compositional gift is in distilling instantly engaging and memorable music into such minimal form. The pages of his music may not be crammed with notes and complicated time signatures, but they linger in the ear like a smash hit pop song while illuminating the synapses with clever ideas.
The thrilling performances on 'Brightness: Live In Amsterdam'—at one of the world's most revered and adventurous concert venues, Bimhuis—make Knuffke's long-overdue live debut well worth the wait.
'BRIGHTNESS: LIVE IN AMSTERDAM'
3. White Shoulders
5. The Mob, The Crowd, The Mass
6. That's A Shame
7. Spares and Falls