Reviews that mention Kirk Knuffke

August 8, 2021

James Brandon Lewis/Red Lily Quintet

Jesup Wagon
TAO Forms TAO 05

Expanding his creative reach as he augments his musical associates, New York tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis’ Jesup Wagon is a mediation and amplification of the work of US post-bellum botanist George Washington Carver (1864-1943). Although best known as the agricultural scientist who developed hundreds of uses for the peanut, Carver was also an artist and musician. Except for Lewis’ recitation of a couple of his own concise poems, the seven-track homage is all instrumental. Other members of the Red Lily Quintet are cornetist Kirk Knuffke, who plays with Jeff Lederer; cellist Chris Hoffman who has worked with Henry Threadgill and drummer Chad Taylor and bassist William Parker, who have been associated with multiple innovative improvisers. MORE

February 16, 2021

Matt Wilson Quartet

Palmetto Records PM 2196

A pleasant curio from drummer Matt Wilson’s long-established quartet, Hug’s 11 tracks caress a distinct roll call of originals, Jazz-and-other musical standard with cultivated élan, and sardonic humor appropriate for the age of Donald Trump and Covid. That means that “King of the Road” and a burlesque of Trump’s outer spaces dreams share space with classics from Charlie Haden, Gene Ammons and others. Practiced players all, the quartet includes cornetist Kirk Knuffke, who works with Mark Helias; bassist Chris Lightcap, whose associations include Gerald Cleaver; and multi-reedist Jeff Lederer, who is part of numerous bands, many of which feature other quartet members. MORE

July 14, 2019

Chris Welcome

Beyond All Things
Live at the Bushwick Series GauciMusic No #

Pipeline 8



Endowed with the multiple instrumental tinctures expected from a larger band yet malleable enough to shift sequences at will the octet has long been a favored vehicle for musical exploration. But just as having four wheels doesn’t make one car the same as another, so working with eight players doesn’t end up with the same sounds – even in conception.

Organized by Italian bass clarinetist Giancarlo Nino Locatelli, Prayer for instance, is a boisterous salute to the late soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, an important influence on Locatelli, who has also worked in groups like the Fish Horn Quartet and the Tai-No Orchestra. Consisting in the main of Lacy compositions the interpretations are by some of the most accomplished Mediterranean improvisers such as pianist Alberto Braida, who worked in duo with Locatelli, trombonist Sebi Tramontana, trumpeter Gabriele Mitelli, percussionist Cristiano Calcagnile, guitarist Gianmaria Aprile, cellist Luca Tilli and bassist Andrea Grossi. MORE

May 12, 2019

Kirk Knuffke/Steven Herring

Steeplechase SCCD 31859

By Ken Waxman

Shredding conventions, jazz cornetist Kirk Knuffke teams up with classically trained baritone Steven Herring for off-the-wall performances that range from operatic classics and spirituals to poetry-set-to-music and standards. Raising the idiosyncratic interpretation stakes still higher other accompaniment is from the patterning of Russ Lossing’s piano and the gruff oom pah pah of Ben Goldberg’s contrabass clarinet. Remarkably most of the transitions work.

Unsurprisingly Herring aces the declarative nuances of “Iago’s Credo” and “Questo Amor” with studied formalism. But his creativity isn’t solipsistic. Goldberg’s stentorian puffs and Kirk’s capillary peeps match operatic chortles on the former. Meanwhile the amorous exposition on the later owes as much to plunger brass notes and seductive piano chords as ebullient vocalizing. “Witness”, “A City Called Heaven” and other traditional religious songs fare as well. However mellow horn parts and a broad melodic sweeps from the pianist on Witness as well as carefully modulated vamps from all the instrumentalists produces subtle swing on both tunes, leaving the emotion to Herring. The baritone’s parlando serves him appropriately when Knuffke’s musical setting of Carl Sandburg’s “Subway” is transformed into song. But the recitation is mated with the cornetist’s passionate grace notes to reach its goal. In fact the only miscue is Sun Ra’s “The Satellites are Spinning”. While clarinet snarls and cornet blats enliven it, the vocalist’s theatrical declarations miss its sardonic and humorous aspects. Witness works wonderfully as long as the musical alterations remain down to earth. MORE

July 6, 2018

Jeff Lederer’s Shakers n’ Bakers

Heart Love
little (i) music CD107

Although the objective of most Jazz repertoire bands remains to pay respects to certain, usually deceased, musicians or musicians by interpreting the recorded work, very few do more than collect tunes for a tribute, play them in an expected fashion and move on. Luckily as the honorees have evolved past saluting big names, alternative sounds’ novel nuances are sometimes conveyed. Case in point is tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer’s Shakers n’ Bakers. For the past decade or so the New York-based academic, best-known for his work in Matt Wilson’s groups, has been working his way through the oeuvre of Albert Ayler (1936 -1970), linking it to the sacred songs of the Shaker religious sect, MORE

July 1, 2018

Michael Musillami Trio +2

Life Anthem
Playscape PSR #091717

From great suffering comes great art or at least that’s what one cliché insists. But in the case of Life Anthem an argument can be made for the statement’s veracity. Recorded a little more than year after an emergency neurosurgery excised the American guitarist Michael Musillami’s unexpected brain hemorrhage and brain tumor, the over-70-minute session has some of the most accomplished writing and playing he’s produced in his more than quarter-century career. Musillami isn’t alone in this. Backing comes from bassist Joe Fonda, known for his work in bands like Conference Call and the FAB trio and drummer George Schuller, with his own Schull Dogs group, both of whom have played with the guitarist since 2002. Musical heft is added by two new collaborators: cornetist Kirk Knuffke and saxophonist/flutist Jason Robinson, both active on the New York scene. MORE

September 6, 2016

Brooklyn Blowhards

Brooklyn Blowhards
Little (i) music No #

Umlaut Big Band

Euro Swing Vol. 2

Umlaut UMFR-CD18

Quartetski Does Bartok

Mikrikosmos Sz 107

\Ambiances Magnétiques AM 224 CD

Absolutely Sweet Marie

Another Side Of Blonde On Blonde

Tiger Moon: Records TMR 003

Greg Ward & 10 Tongues

Touch My Beloved’s Thought

Greenleaf Music GRE-CD-1050

Something In The Air: Musical Inspirations Arise from Unexpected Sources

June 6, 2016

Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus

The Distance
ECM 2484

The Who


Auricle Aur 14+15


Cosmopolitan Greetings

Red Piano RPR 4699-4419-2

Eric Platz

Life After Life

Allos Documents 012

Florian Hoefner


Origin Records 82706

Something In The Air: Those Who Teach Can Also Play

By Ken Waxman

As shibboleths go, the hoary “those who can do, those who can’t teach,” must rank at the very top of the list. Besides libelling the majority of educators who devote themselves to the task of imparting knowledge to students, it negates the activities of those who teach and do. Here are some musicians who maintain a full-time teaching carer along with consistent gigging. MORE

March 2, 2016

Michael Bisio

Relative Pitch RPR 1040

Matthew Shipp Trio

The Conduct of Jazz

Thirsty Ear THI 57211

Straightforward in his improvising and composing, it’s fairly easy to understand how Michael Bisio has become bassist of choice for many of Jazz’s most exploratory players. He has had a long-time relationship with pianist Matthew Shipp as well as being part of straightforward ensembles with the likes of saxophonist Louie Belogenis and saxophonist/trumpeter Joe McPhee.

Although straightforward is straight as in a straight line, straightforward isn’t straight as in straight-ahead. For instance on the disc as part of Shipp’s trio with drummer Newman Taylor Baker; and with his newly constituted Accortet, featuring cornetist Kirk Knuffke, drummer Michael Wimberly and accordionist Art Bailey, Bisio’s creativity allows for angling unexpected strategies within these performances. But like a competitive long-distance swimmer who makes sure a guiding boat is always nearby, he ensures that tunes maintain a determined form and never drift off into cacophony. MORE

September 16, 2015

Kirk Knuffke

Arms & Hands
Royal Potato Family RPF

Tom Trio

Radical Moves

ForTune 0045 032

Circumventing the limitations of the brass-double bass-drums format with contrasting game plans are Polish trumpeter Tomaz Dąbrowski and American cornetist Kirk Knuffke. Each has come up with an equitable and equally valid solution to the challenge.

Dąbrowski, who now lives in Copenhagen structures his compositions on the Tom Trio’s second CD to take full advantage of the varied tempos, rhythms and interactions available from his improvising and that of bassist Nils Bo Davidsen and drummer Anders Mogensen, both in-demand players on the Danish scene. Cheating a bit, Knuffke’s newly constituted trio with veterans, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bill Goodwin, features individual cameo appearances on six tracks by trombonist Brian Drye, alto saxophonist Daniel Carter and tenor and soprano saxophonist Jeff Lederer. Considering that the CD is made up of 15 tracks, including a concluding version of Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadours’ 1964 hit “Thanks a Lot”, the additional players broaden Arms & Hands scope, with the core trio featured enough to demonstrate its innate communication skills. MORE

September 11, 2015

Max Johnson Trio

Something Familiar
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 471

By Ken Waxman

After three CDs and about five years of collaboration, resourceful bassist/composer Max Johnson’s trio has attained a state of extraordinary cohesion. Filed out by the streamlined fluidity from Kirk Knuffke’s cornet and the complementary rhythms from drummer Ziv Ravitz, the trio can handle ballads and burners with equal aplomb.

Turning the narrow sound palate accessible from only three sources to its advantage, each sonic modulation reaches its intended position the way marbles fill the indentations on a Chinese checkers board, but without that game’s jarring clanks. The melody of slow-paced “Les Vague” for instance, is built around heartfelt muted cries from Knuffke, gorgeously harmonized with double bass tones that appear to be sprinkled not plucked. Its antithesis “Blips and Bloops” is unabashedly onomatopoeic, with the cornetist’s open-horn blasts and plunger smears so vivid that they’re practically emoticons, while Johnson’s spiccato triple stops strengthen the jocular theme with woody affirmations. “Hammer Song” may appear as if it’s designed to showcase Ravitz. Yet the few hard thumps he extracts from the deeper-toned parts of his kit are ultimately displaced by lively polyrhythms, as Johnson’s walking that reverberates with the power of a punch to the solar plexus, steers the tune forward. MORE

May 7, 2015

Label Spotlight

Royal Potato Family
By Ken Waxman

Unintentionally, the family part of our name has become really important,” muses Kevin Calabro when discussing the Brooklyn-based Royal Potato Family (RPF) label he co-owns with Marco Benevento. Calabro, who handles day-to-day activities of the six-year-old imprint adds: “We see ourselves as a big extended family of artists. There’s an aesthetic thread running through all of the musicians on our label even if it’s not overly apparent when glancing at the catalog”. He’s correct, since among the 55 or so discs released by RPF are ones featuring Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey (JFJO), 6 String Drag and Grayson Capps. “We love rock, we love jazz, we love experimental stuff, we love old school country, blues and folk, we love New Orleans music, we love psych rock, so nothing is off limits musically if it resonates with us on a gut level,” Calabro, exhaults. The imprint’s unusual name came from the gut as well. Benevento heard the expression as part of a joke Bob Dylan told drummer Matt Chamberlain and began using it himself. When the label was launched and needed a name, it fit the bill. “Thankfully, it’s become enough of an institution at this point that people often just refer to it as RPF,” admits Calabro. MORE

April 2, 2015

Jeff Davis

Dragon Father
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 444

Hopefully Brooklyn-based drummer Jeff Davis doesn’t mind being compared to earlier percussion activists like Chico Hamilton or Art Blakey. Like Hamilton, Davis, who has long-time affiliations with the likes of bassist Michael Bates and pianist Jesse Stacken, is in many ways the perfect accompanist. He gets the job done, but never overwhelms the other players – even if he’s leading the band. That is how Blakey comes into the picture. Like the older drummer/bandleader, Davis has the knack of recruiting the most appropriate players for bands under his direction. MORE

October 6, 2014

Max Johnson

The Invisible Trio
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 438


Chats With The Real McCoy

Creative Sources CS 257 CD

Starker representations of the variances between Free Jazz and Free Music probably couldn’t be presented than comparing these low-key trio sessions. Although both discs are 40-odd-minutes in length, feature a brass player, double bassist and drummer performing eight originals, confusing one with the other would be like mixing up Kid Ory and Kidd Jordan. Both methods are equally valid of course.

In the classic Jazz tradition, though somewhat unusual by featuring a cornet as the only horn, The Invisible Trio is a vehicle for the compositions of bassist Max Johnson which usually unfold with a Boppish lilt. A professional from an early age, Johnson works with other New York downtowners like saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and violist Mat Maneri. Cornetist Kirk Knuffle plays with other groups, most notably Ideal Bread; while Israeli-born drummer Ziv Ravitz has worked with everyone from Lee Konitz to Omer Avital. Demonstrating Free Music’s geographic reach, GLUE members are all Berliners, but each is from a different country. Trumpeter Tom Arthurs is British, bassist Miles Perkin, Canadian and percussionist Yorgos Dimitriadis, Greek. MORE

November 8, 2013

Label Spotlight:

Relative Pitch Records
By Ken Waxman

We both feel that every release has been a success,” says Kevin Reilly, co-owner with Mike Panico, of the New York area-based Relative Pitch (RP) record label. “I want to stay away from categorizing our releases according to the parameters of late industrial capitalist consumerism.”

Economic methodology aside, in the less than five years since it was founded, Relative Pitch has already put out 14 well-regarded CDs, featuring younger advanced players such as guitarist Mary Halvorson and trumpeter Nate Wooley, plus veteran free musicians including bassist Joëlle Léandre and saxophonist Urs Leimgruber. MORE

October 14, 2013


Relative Pitch RPR 1014

By Ken Waxman

Good-humored and spirited, Sifter (the band) is a striped-down combo consisting of three of NYC’s busiest players; while Sifter (the CD) sifts out 13 highly entertaining compositions by each of the band members into a well-paced program.

Besides leading his own band(s), drummer Matt Wilson is the go-to percussionist for both mainstream and avant-garde ensembles. Guitarist Mary Halvorson sometimes seems to be working every day, if not with her own groups, than with bands led by Anthony Braxton, among many others. Meanwhile Cornetist Kirk Knuffke plays in both the other members’ groups, and has recorded well-received duet discs with pianist Jesse Stacken. MORE

October 20, 2011

Jesse Stacken/Kirk Knuffke

Orange Was The Color
Steeplechase SCCD 31717

Alexander Von Schlippenbach/Manfred Schoof

Blue Hawk

Jazzwerkstatt JW 119

Participants in these brass-piano duos are at least four decades apart in age and from two different countries, but each configuration has conceived a personal approach to sound al, but in a fashion in this reductionist setting.

Two non-East Coasters transplanted to Brooklyn, pianist Jesse Stacken and cornetist Kirk Knuffke are part of the floating gestalt of the Apple’s young performers. Both have worked with a variety of tyro and veteran musicians including saxophonist Michael Blake, bassist Lisle Ellis and drummer Kenny Wollesen. In 2009 the duo released a CD recasting tunes by Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington, and Orange Was The Color does the same for 11 Charles Mingus compositions in a balladic configuration. MORE

July 17, 2011

Brian Drye

NCM East Records NCM 40130

Bruno Tocanne

4 new dreams!

IMR label IMR 002

Moving along parallel yet singular paths, these quartet discs are united by imaginative borrowing from Rock-styled rhythms plus the tonal freedom offered by advanced improvisation. Simultaneously though both trombonist Brian Drye’s all-American combo and drummer Bruno Tocanne’s French/Swiss/Canadian group express a linkage to more traditional Jazz via their instrumentation. With a front-line consisting of harmonized trumpet (or cornet) and trombone, both bands are give new impetus to a instrumental blend that goes all the way back to Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory or Red Allen and J.C. Higginbotham, and was most effectively expressed in modern times by J.J. Johnson’s trombone in tandem with Nat Adderley’s cornet or Freddie Hubbard’s trumpet. MORE

November 6, 2010

Kirk Knuffke/Lisle Ellis/Kenny Wollesen

Chew Your Food
No Business NBLP 17

By Ken Waxman

More than a musical mouthful, this session lead by trumpeter Kirk Knuffke is an apt demonstration of unselfish trio interaction. The result of a Jerome Foundation composers grant, the nine compositions, recorded live at Roulette, flow seamlessly into one another suite-like. Not only are Knuffke’s well-masticated compositional and improvisational skills served up, but the disc also confirms that ample improvisational nutrition can result with only a trumpet in the front-line – just as long as the sonic meal includes proper seasoning from other players. MORE