Cornetist/composer Kirk Knuffke leads his acclaimed trio at the renowned Dutch jazz club Bimhuis for his first-ever concert album, ‘Brightness: Live in Amsterdam.’ The collection, available on acclaimed indie record label, Royal Potato Family, finds Knuffke with drummer Bill Goodwin and bassist Mark Helias performing with startling inventiveness, moment-to-moment creative sparks, and alchemical reactivity.
It may come as something of a surprise that Knuffke has never released a live date as a leader until now. While he’s been an essential component of many a collaborator’s concert albums and logged countless hours on stages around the world, his own catalogue has been almost wholly crafted in recording studios.
Documenting his bandleader debut at the storied Bimhuis is just one way in which ‘Brightness: Live in Amsterdam’ marks an important first for Knuffke. It also offers his first ventures as a vocalist, a practice he’s engaged in often at home and occasionally on stage, but never until now captured for posterity.
In other ways, though, Brightness is a continuation of the dazzling evolution of Knuffke’s musical identity, a combination of tradition-minded swing and inspiration—embracing freedom through a freewheeling looseness that leaves room for a brilliantly focused vision. It also present Knuffke reconvening the unexpected trio with Goodwin and Helias that debuted on his acclaimed 2015 release, ‘Arms & Hands.’
Knuffke’s particular compositional gift is in distilling instantly engaging and memorable music into such minimal form. The pages of his music may not be crammed with notes and complicated time signatures, but they linger in the ear like a smash hit pop song while illuminating the synapses with clever ideas.
The thrilling performances on ‘Brightness:Live In Amsterdam’—at one of the world’s most revered and adventurous concert venues, Bimhuis—make Knuffke’s long-overdue live debut well worth the wait.