It is beyond cliché to say that jazz is akin to a conversation, and often not true. In many bands—especially during festival season, when travel woes are at their worst—musicians can be seen going about their work all but unaware of what their bandmates are doing. Some veterans seem to be particularly isolated.
Twice during Wednesday evening's concert inside the National Arts Centre's Studio, 75-year-old pianist Steve Kuhn thanked the capacity audience for supporting "this music we have devoted our lives to." With irrepressible Joey Baron on drums and Steve Swallow on electric bass, the trio also seemed devoted to having fun. It's not unusual for Baron to have a smile on his face during a show, but he, Swallow and Kuhn continuously shared laughs and looks of appreciation at what the others were doing.
For anyone new to the music, I recommend the sight of the grizzled, gnomish Swallow, hunched over his instrument and spinning out supple lines filled with gloriously round notes. The sound he achieves continues to be one of the most beautiful in jazz.
Aside from Henry Mancini's "Slow Hot Wind" (also known as "Lujon") a slow, sensuous "Stella By Starlight" and an opening standard, the trio's program was divided between compositions by Swallow and Kuhn, including the bassist's gorgeous tune "Eiderdown." It is material they have often played, drawn largely from the four ECM albums they have made in some combination of the trio, but their enthusiasm and commitment to the moment ensured that everything sounded like they were making discoveries at each turn in the music.