Reviews

I said that you were a master of assertion and restraint. You have an uncanny sense of how to refresh interest and when to do it.
In other words, you know when to get off the bus. You never “turn the faucet on.”

David Bloom, Bloom School of Music

kahn and million

Steve Million, left, and Jeremy Kahn perform Aug. 29, 2016, as Double Monk at PianoForte Studios in Chicago. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

Howard ReichContact Reporter

What a buoyant way to begin Chicago Jazz Festival week.

Though the 38th annual event doesn’t start officially until Thursday, Monday evening’s performance by pianists Steve Million and Jeremy Kahn at PianoForte Studios, on South Michigan Avenue, served as a rousing curtain-raiser.

To hear two top-notch Chicago jazz pianists playing a couple of superb grand pianos in an intimate room certainly set expectations high for the rest of the week. The standing-room-only crowd suggested that audiences are eager to attend festival-related events outside Millennium Park, where the bulk of Chicago Jazz Festival performances will take place Thursday through Sunday.

Though first-rate indoor events always have been in far too short supply at this festival, Million and Kahn showed how much these performances can contribute. For over the course of a single hour, the duo that calls itself Double Monk offered richly detailed, carefully considered yet cleverly improvised versions of classics and obscurities by Thelonious Monk.

One rarely hears this music played in this context, the duo illuminating the intricacies of Monk’s scores while veering far from the originals.

Even before Million and Kahn played a note, however, prominent Chicago broadcaster Richard Steele offered a few mercifully brief remarks in a concert broadcast live over WDCB-FM 90.9.

“Obviously, you know that Thelonious Monk wrote more than ‘Round Midnight,'” Steele told the audience, which was about to hear how much more.

The duo opened the concert with Monk’s “Bye-Ya,” the pianists instantly telegraphing why they’ve decided to band together: They share an intrinsic sense of time. The ker-plunk effect that mars many a piano duo — jazz and classical alike — was nowhere to be heard here. This was all the more impressive a feat considering the rhythmically elusive nature of Monk’s music, which generally thrives on unexpected pauses, abrupt interjections and relentless syncopation.

None of that threw Double Monk, which in some moments sounded as if 176 keys were being played on a single massive instrument.

Even so, it didn’t take long to discern the distinctions between Million’s pianism and Kahn’s, particularly in solos. In essence, Million produced a sharper-edged tone and more angular turns of phrase, Kahn a rounded timbre and silvery touch. Put the two together, and you have a deeply satisfying sound and practically relentless musical action.

Some of the evening’s most inspired music-making emerged in Monk’s “Ugly Beauty,” Million and Kahn opening with gauzy tone evoking the piano music of Claude Debussy, albeit with even more ambiguous harmony. As the main theme emerged from the mists of sound, it seemed to float above a swirl of color. Million’s characteristic melodic inventiveness and Kahn’s blues-tinged expression made for an “Ugly Beauty” unlike others.

The pianists got a lot grittier in Monk’s “Criss Cross,” Million dispatching fat chord clusters and brilliant figurations while Kahn churned out a hard-driving, vamping accompaniment. The two switched roles in the Monk rarity “Oska T.,” Kahn unreeling slow-and-slinky blues lines against Million’s ostinato.

Of course each player offered an extended solo piece, Million digging deeply into the way Monk thought about harmony and dissonance in “Work.” The astringency of Million’s chord structures and the intelligence with which he developed Monk’s themes said a great deal about the seriousness of this venture. Kahn turned in some of his most technically accomplished playing in Monk’s “Trinkle, Tinkle,” reveling in the sharp dissonance and putting the main motif through its paces.

When the two pianists “traded fours,” as jazz musicians refer to a series of alternating solos, in “Jackie-ing,” they exchanged musical ideas in rapid-fire fashion.

They never did get around to playing “‘Round Midnight,” though judging by the creativity of the rest of the performance, it could have been quite something to hear.

Maybe next time.

 

REVIEWS FOR “DIRECT CALL”; ANDY BROWN QUARTET; DELMARK RECORDS

“Of the many moods and moments, check out the sympatico counterpoint between the leader and pianist Jeremy Kahn on “One Morning In May” and (Kahn’s) hipness with chords on “Freak Of The Week.” Michael Jackson, Downbeat Magazine review (four stars); 10/2016

“Jeremy Kahn’s piano accompaniment is swinging and precise. Kahn’s solo on the title track is poignant and masterful.” Devin “Doc” Wendell, blog.

“….Jeremy Kahn, a superb pianist whose creds are as impressive as his improvisation.” Jim Carlton, 2016. From the liner notes of “Direct Call”; Andy Brown Quartet; Delmark Records 5023

“Kahn crafts a spicy monologue on Hank Mobley’s ‘Funk In Deep Freeze.'”

“Johnny Mandel’s…. ‘El Cajon’….ultimately proves a splendid showcase for Kahn.” Mike Joyce. Jazztimes, August 2016

“Pianist Jeremy Kahn…..merits ample solo space” Dan Forte, Vintage Guitar Magazine, August 2016

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“Jeremy Kahn conducts the amazing onstage band….” Shari Barrett, Culver City News, January 2016 (From “Louis & Keely Live At The Sarah”: Geffen Theater)

Young guys attract old dolls in Pal Joey

Rodgers and Hart’s 1940 musical, now in a new revival by Porchlight Music Theatre, pushed Broadway’s buttons—and its boundaries.

By Albert Williams

“Doug Peck’s musical direction reflects the story’s squalor with tinny trumpet and heavy-handed drums (though pianist Jeremy Kahn’s preshow riffs on Rodgers and Hart standards are sublime);” … Read the review

Blazing ‘Mikado’: Long may it swing

THEATER REVIEW | Drury Lane’s firecracker version is sexy, soulful

…..with peony-pink folding fans (one hiding the superb band led by Jeremy Kahn), plus an array of zoot-suited gents ….read the review from the Chicago Sun Times

 

Faddis’ CJE kicks sound, performances up a notch

by Howard Reich – Tribune Critic

So why has the CJE kicked into high gear?
For starters, Faddis has been tinkering with the personnel, engaging Jeremy Kahn, for instance, as pianist (he played an exquisitely Impressionistic solo on Ellington’s “The Single Petal of a Rose” during Friday night’s concert); and promoting drummer Dana Hall, an accomplished technician and rigorously serious artist, to music director. With these and other staffing choices, Faddis is making Russo’s band his own, and it shows.
Read whole article

Chicago pianist overcomes illness and ‘Wicked’ ways

by Howard Reich – Tribune Critic –  Go to article source

Hobgood, Kahn display strokes of brilliance

By Howard Reich
Tribune Critic

Chicago has been nurturing great jazz pianists for roughly a century, and two of the best of them held center stage over the week-end.

Now it’s true that veteran Chicago pianist Jeremy Kahn usually doesn’t go nearly so far out on a limb as Hobgood. But Kahn works the musical mainstream with elegance and èlan, as he did early Friday night at Andy’s Jazz Club. Performing in a trio setting, Kahn produced long, silvery lines in “Prelude to a Kiss” and an appealingly laconic romanticism in “Dancing in the Dark.”

If you think playing the standard repertory this seamlessly is easy, try it sometime.

hreich@tribune.com

September 11, 2007

Jeremy Kahn’s Threepenny Opera – from www.artsjournal.com/rifftides

Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill gave the world The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) in 1928. When it was running in Berlin, the artist George Grosz said, “You would hear those songs wherever you went in the evening.” Long before Louis Armstrong made “Mack the Knife” a universal hit, theater critics were calling The Threepenny Opera the greatest musical of all time. Walter Kerr wrote, “I think the most wonderfully insulting music I have ever come across was composed by the late Kurt Weill for Bert Brecht’s Threepenny Opera.” The producer Harold Prince said, “Many have tried to imitate it. No one has succeeded.”

From the Threepenny Opera web site:

In their opera “by and for beggars,” composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) and playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) transformed saccharine, old-fashioned opera and operetta forms, incorporating a sharp political perspective and the sound of 1920s Berlin dance bands and cabaret. Weill’s acid harmonies and Brecht’s biting texts created a revolutionary new musical theater that inspired such subsequent hits as Cabaret, Chicago, and Urinetown. The show’s opening number, “Mack the Knife,” became one of the top popular songs of the century.

The opening night audience at Berlin’s Theater am Schiffbauerdamm didn’t quite know what to expect when the curtain rose on The Threepenny Opera on August 31, 1928, but after the first few musical numbers they began to cheer and call for encores. The show was a brilliant hit, and Threepenny-fever spread throughout Europe, generating forty-six stage productions of the work in the first year after the Berlin premiere. In 1931, a film version directed by G.W. Pabst entitled Die 3-Groschenoper opened, making an international star of Weill’s wife, Lotte Lenya, who repeated her portrayal of Jenny Diver from the show’s first production.

Dozens of jazz artists have recorded “Mack the Knife.” Gil Evans gave us memorable impressions of “Bilbao Song” and “Barbara Song.” Once in a great while someone with esoteric tastes tackles “Pirate Jenny” or “Love Song.” Still, for all its riches and potential for interpretation, until recently there have been, to my knowledge, only two entire jazz albums of music from the score of this twentieth century milestone, both on long-playing vinyl. One was by the Australian Jazz Quartet (Bethlehem Records, 1958, long out of print). The other was by pianist André Previn and trombonist J.J. Johnson with bassist Red Mitchell and drummer Frank Capp, recorded for Columbia in 1960. Despite the material and the big names, this superb album, at once lively and mordant, has never been reissued on CD. If you’re lucky, you might snag a copy of the LP on e-bay or elsewhere on the internet.

The relatively new (2005) album of music from The Threepenny Opera came to my attention by chance when the Chicago pianist Jeremy Kahn sent Rifftides a comment about something else entirely. I looked him up on the web, found his site, and discovered that he and his quartet had a CD called Most Of a Nickel: Music From The Threepenny Opera. I listened to the samples and arranged to get a copy. I have been listening to it for days. Kahn and his colleagues find both the acid bitterness and the subtle beauty of Weill’s music and, by extension, the mocking parody of Brecht’s story. Even if you knew nothing about the background of the music, I think you would be captured by the bittersweet tango of “Ballad of Immoral Earnings;” the understated longing of Jim Gailloreto’s tenor saxophone in “Love Song;” the delicacy of his flute in “Solomon Song;” “Cannon Song’s” intimations of joy, with hints of militarism from Eric Montzka’ drums; the forthrightness of “Barbara Song.” There are three short versions of “Mack The Knife,” one devoted to Kahn’s piano, its voicings rich with minor key irony; one for Gilloreto, who conjures an unaccompanied solo fantasy on the song’s primary phrase without once resorting to quoting Sonny Rollins; one for Larry Kohut’s bass, also unaccompanied.

Some CDs are too long. This one is too short. It has eleven of the twenty-four pieces in the Weill score. Kahn’s quartet leaves you wanting more from The Threepenny Opera. A second volume would be welcome.

chicago tribune

“One of the more pleasant developments in Chicago music over the past couple years has been the return of pianist Jeremy Kahn, who grew up in this area but eventually migrated to New York. For those who haven’t had a chance to hear Kahn live since his return, his debut CD will help explain why he has become one of the busiest jazz keyboardists in town. Every track on this CD documents the intelligence of Kahn’s pianism and arranging, from his suavely stated reading of Gershwin’s ‘There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon For New York’ to his rhythmically puckish account of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Trinkle, Tinkle’. The title track stands as the recording’s centerpiece, and Kahn makes much more of Fats Waller’s ‘Jitterbug Waltz’ than one might expect, repeatedly changing meters and shrewdly reharmonizing the tune. Leading a trio throughout, Kahn announces himself as a pianist of considerable accomplishment and even greater potential.”

Howard Reich, The Chicago Tribune

 

ny times

“Jeremy Kahn . . . gives the songs a taut, springy effervescence.”

Steven Holden, The New York Times

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“The rhythmic joy that the trio puts into its songs is . . . raised a notch when Jeremy Kahn . . . steps out in a jumping solo that takes on an exuberant life of its own.”
John S. Wilson, The New York Times

 

Herald

“You go to the Gold Star Sardine Bar for one reason and one reason only – to listen to a great jazz, including the Jeremy Kahn trio.”

Barbara Vitello, Chicago Daily Herald

reader

“Piano man Jeremy Kahn has plied his trade in the bars and lounges of Boston and New York as well as his hometown, Chicago. While for some ticklers that’s life in hell, Kahn seems to have used his residencies to build up a broad repertoire–on a 1995 trio CD he mixes Mingus, Shorter, Weill, and
Beiderbecke– and to stock the depths below the music’s placid surface with all sorts of fish, from quietly altered blues licks to chromium chords and terse asides to serpentine left-hand bass lines that unexpectedly take over. Get a seat up front if you really want to catch any of them.”
Kevin Whitehead, Chicago Reader.

“…with the superb…trio (Jeremy Kahn on piano, Tim Davis on drums and Larry Kohut on bass)…”
—-Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times
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“Kahn is . . . a rare and gifted pianist.”

Dennis Polkow, The Chicago Tribune
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“(Jeremy’s) . . . CD is delightful. (He plays) . . . the piano beautifully, with a high degree of musicality and lots of imagination.”

Pianist and composer Roger Kellaway
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“Kahn evince(s) aspects of Red Garland and Bill Evans.”

Zan Stewart, Down Beat

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“Kahn’s richly chorded and rhythmically inventive piano is outstanding . . .”

Hugh Rainey, Jazz Journal International
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New York’s loss has been Chicago’s gain in the case of Jeremy Kahn, the splendid jazz pianist who (has) moved back to his hometown . . .
. . . Kahn has been busily working in a variety of Chicago bands and theatrical productions, all of which have attested to his versatility as an improvising musician.
But the stint that Kahn is playing at the Gold Star Sardine Bar . . . may be his best local engagement to date, and not only because of the intimate ambience of the room.
More important, Kahn is leading what has to be one of the most cohesive and persuasive jazz trios in the city. With warm and meticulous support from drummer Joel Spencer and bassist Larry Kohut, Kahn has begun establishing himself as a distinctive voice.
In every selection he played Friday night, Kahn offered a degree of subtlety, elegance, and understatement one does not encounter often enough. Here’s the rare pianist who prefers to address both his audience and his instrument with delicacy rather than bombast, with carefully articulated voicings rather than grandiosely stated chords.
The tonal beauty he brought to ‘My Romance’, the unusual harmonies he explored in Bobby Hutchenson’s ‘’Til Then’, the whispering and ethereal pianism he produced in ‘It’s Easy to Remember’ distinguished this set.
So did Kahn’s reading of three tunes from Gershwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess’. Though the pianist introduced this as a medley, the dramatic sweep of the performance and the sophistication of the transitional material suggested the weight of a suite or a tone poem for jazz trio.
By shrewdly reharmonizing ‘I Loves You, Porgy’, freely altering rhythms on ‘My Man’s Gone Now’ and otherwise rethinking this material, Kahn created a deeply personalized version of Gershwin’s greatest work.
The evening’s other highlight was a fascinating reworking of Duke Ellington’s ‘Rocking in Rhythm’.
Throughout, Kahn approached the keyboard in orchestral terms, his richly imagined pianism underscored by Spencer’s driving rhythms . . . and Kohut’s plush bass lines.
Together, these players yielded the drama and the tonal variety of a larger ensemble, without losing the intimacy that only a piano trio can provide.”

Howard Reich, The Chicago Tribune