Emily Kuhn: Ghosts Of Us

Chicago trumpeter Kuhn and quintet play originals largely born of 1960s-70s post-bop and modal style but with a later guitar sound


Spectres from the afterlife tend to tackle their unfinished business at a leisurely pace, floating through the mortal realm. Ghosts Of Us has a similarly unhurried attitude. The quintet drifts across six tracks without seeming to touch the ground. There are haunting moments – but no blood-curdling screams or crashing teacups.

Trumpeter Emily Kuhn leads this quintet of players from the Chicago scene. Erik Skov’s guitar and Meghan Stagl’s piano join Kitt Lyles on bass and Gustavo Cortiñas on drums. It’s an instrumentation that gives Kuhn plenty of space to embrace a starring role. The group’s tight-knit connection is palpable throughout.

The title track begins with an improvised passage. Kuhn’s trumpet pirouettes into a waltzing, undulating ballad. A homey mood prevails. The album’s final track, Home, follows a similar pattern with a 3/4 beat and a neighbourly ambiance. While Kuhn’s other projects often serve up crazy weather, Ghosts Of Us brings warm evenings and a light, autumnal breeze.

There’s another slow run-up on In Lieu of Certainty, Movement. The trumpet drip-feeds melodic content across an improvised intro. The tempo is more urgent thanks to inventive and spirited percussion. It’s a track that showcases the deep trust among these musicians, with sensitive interplay creating dynamic peaks and dips.

When It Rains is the least typical track on the album. The swing rhythm, walking bass-line and boppish melody stick out among the album’s contemporary character. There’s even a neat passage of trading solos, slotted around drum bursts like in the good old days.

The phantoms of Ghosts Of Us are friendly, more like Casper than a horror-movie monster. Together, these five Chicagoans conjure up calm visitors from the past rather than scary things that go bump in the night. No need to call Peter Venkman and the gang for this one.

Ghosts Of Us; Respire; In Lieu Of Certainty, Movement; When It Rains; When The World Is Young; Home (39.50)
Kuhn (t); Meghan Stagl (p); Erik Skov (g); Kitt Lyles (b); Gustavo Cortiñas (d). Chicago, December 2021.
Bace Records