Paul Kuhn: The L.A. Session

Vinyl reissue has the German pianist and singer in top form at 83 years old on songbook classics with John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton


This album was recorded in 2011 and released at first on CD in 2013. Kuhn, a German pianist, singer and bandleader, was coming up to his 85th birthday in March 2013 although he died later that year in September. In a change to usual procedure, this double vinyl issue adds two tracks that were not issued on the original CD.

The pianist selected a fine collection of songbook and jazz standards for the session and on the evidence here was just as happy playing Dinah as he was Parker’s Ornithology. He swings the latter at a bright tempo and for the last nine minutes reverts to the original How High The Moon melody. He adds a wild scat on this selection.

Opening LP1, Almost The Blues is a mid-tempo exercise in blue improvising, effectively enhanced by Hamilton’s sensitive drumming and Clayton’s strong bass lines. Emily is a feature for the bassist, who plays the entire tune on arco bass with just minimal interjections from piano and drums.

Kuhn obviously loved good standards and some of his best improvised lines can be heard here on Just In Time, Close Your Eyes and Speak Low. On A Clear Day is the longest track, at six minutes, and Kuhn plays at his most rhapsodic on this song.

The vinyl reissue has been put together lovingly, with a glossy gatefold cover, colour photographs and excellent remastered analogue sound. Don’t make my mistake though: watch out for a tiny circle down on the bottom right of the cover that says 45rpm in little letters. I thought Kuhn couldn’t possibly sound that dark, low, and slow on his Just In Time vocal! 

The trio blend together neatly throughout and according to the liner note, Kuhn was in his element recording at Capitol Studios, LA where his hero, Frank Sinatra, often recorded. This is a relaxed session by three highly compatible musicians who sound as if they enjoyed the entire set. Here you have high-quality playing on 16 standards on premium vinyl.

LP1: Almost The Blues; Just In Time; Close Your Eyes; You’ve Changed; On A Clear Day you Can See Forever; Griff; Dinah (26.64)
LP2: Speak Low; Emily; There Will Never Be Another you; My Hear Stood Still; Ornithology; People; As Time Goes By; Don’t Mean A Thing; My World Of Music (25.42)

Kuhn (p); John Clayton (b); Jeff Hamilton (d). LA, 8 & 9 November 2011.
In + Out Records 77060-3