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.

There’s no fear of starvation here. Just as Knuffke is known for his work with drummer Matt Wilson and Ideal Bread, drummer Kenny Wollesen has spiced up dates for players as different as pianist Myra Melford and saxophonist John Zorn. And if sonic sustenance is needed, veteran bassist Lisle Ellis has previously expanded the menus of multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee and trumpeter Waddada Leo Smith among others.

With this trumpeter, Ellis is a sympathetic sous-chef, voicing guitar-like twangs, steady walking or percussive thumps to better showcase Knuffke’s improvisational qualities. Equal assistance is available from the drummer, who eschews a heavy hand when rhythmically flavoring. Mostly his bill of fare consists of centered rim shots, subtle quivering cymbals and episodes when he seems to be wiping the drum heads with a dish cloth rather than striking them. Responding to this nutritious diet, Knuffke’s appetizers include grace note articulation, widely spaced rubato runs and echoing lines with lyrical flute-like qualities that best display individual themes.

In a couple of instances his main courses are presented a capella – carefully breathed grace notes, harsh bugle-like timbres or a gorgeous restrained fanfare that initially strains in a high register then modulates to more comfortable slurred echoes, amply complemented by thick stops from Ellis and Wollesen’s rolls and pops.

To mix metaphors again, this disc is a sumptuous feast that gives you plenty to chew on while also providing plenty of food for thought.

Tracks: Side A: Chirpy; The Work; Sung the Same; Whatever’s Next; Side B: That’s a Shame; Chew Your Food; Motor; Loading; Grummet

Personnel: Kirk Knuffke: trumpet; Lisle Ellis: bass; Kenny Wollesen: drums

— For All About Jazz New York November 2010