Dave Kikoski Trio ‘Live at Smalls’ (Smalls Live) 4/5

Underrated, yet well respected among musicians and jazz connoisseurs alike, pianist Dave Kikoski has quietly built up an impressive musical CV which began with a period of study at the prestigious Berklee School of Music and has continued from the mid-1980s when he settled across the Manhattan river in Jersey City. He has featured as a regular pianist with Roy Haynes, but during the 1990s cut a series of excellent albums for Criss Cross and has recorded with the likes of Adam Cruz, Leon Parker and David Sanchez. In fact he has a life long love of Latin rhythms. For his latest trio set, he is surrounded by an impressive rhythm section of Hans Glawischnig on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums. Kikoski has a wide range of pianistic influences that include Bud Powell and Monk, but equally and more evidently Hancock, Jarrett and Tyner. Larger formations such as the orchestras of Basie and Ellington have similarly influenced his writing. One of the most compelling of the original compositions is the modal ‘Dirty dogs’ which reveals the romantic side to Kikoski’s playing (influenced in turn by Debussy and Ravel) and on the epic thirteen and half minute ‘Grey areas’ Kikoski sounds positively Tyneresque in tone. The pianist borrows from Charlie Parker on ‘Billie’s bounce’, which is played in a Powell bop vein while Joe Henderson’s lovely ‘Inner urge’ receives an updated treatment as a brisk waltz. Dave Kikoski deserves to be heard by a wider audience and this latest live recording will do his reputation no harm whatsoever in this endeavor.

Tim Stenhouse