Veteran jazz pianist Steve Kuhn has proved to be a popular artist in Japan, recording a series of CDs for the Japanese label Venus. On these 2006 sessions, Kuhn is joined by bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster, two artists who also have extensive résumés. While the CD is titled Plays Standards, Kuhn doesn't stick exclusively to well-known works. In addition to Victor Young's widely recognized "Beautiful Love" (a favorite of pianist Bill Evans), the pianist offers a seductive take of the composer's "Golden Earrings" and a lighthearted, breezy setting of "Love Letters" as well. Kuhn's intense workout of "Alone Together" includes an amusing detour into Thelonious Monk's "Locomotive," while his revamping of "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" disguises the tune rather well. Kuhn also revisits his original "Oceans in the Sky," a brilliant piece evocative of a coming storm. Highly recommended. ~ Ken Dryden
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