Gravity Without Airs


"The exemplary and well-traveled cornetist Kirk Knuffke here introduces a bold new trio -- with bassist Michael Bisio and pianist Matthew Shipp -- on an intimate and expansive double album. Gravity Without Airs features the three world-class musicians on both Knuffke compositions and in open form, creating a tour-de-force of poetry and verve. This is Knuffke's debut as a leader for TAO Forms, following on his being full part of James Brandon Lewis / Red Lily Quintet's Jesup Wagon, one of the most acclaimed jazz releases of 2021. That album was eventually voted #1 Album of the Year in the JazzTimes Critics Poll, the international Jazz Critics Poll established by Francis Davis, and the (soon to be announced) DownBeat Critics Poll. Accolades for the cornetist's own recent work as leader include NPR's Jazz Album of the Year laurel for 2017's Cherryco, his homage to Don Cherry, a prime influence. DownBeat praised the way that album showcased Knuffke's 'nonchalant versatility and ebullient melodic gifts,' while esteemed critic Francis Davis called it 'nothing short of spectacular.' Davis also wrote the liner notes for Gravity Without Airs, noting the allure of Knuffke's instrumental aplomb: 'Kirk plays as if his cornet is a part of him -- he plays with it, not just on it.' On his guiding artistic impulse, Kirk Knuffke says: 'I'm concerned with making beautiful music. Beauty is always first, though not in a precious way. It can be in a rough way, too.' A prolific, lauded record-maker, Gravity Without Airs fulfills his poetic aims as well as any recording he has made. This work finds Knuffke in the rare, even unique, trio format of cornet, piano and double-bass. His partners are two ever-estimable pillars of creative music, and the work they've created together here brims with melody and mystery, intimacy and dynamism. Regarding the album title, Knuffke explains: 'I was reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius while preparing for this recording. He used the phrase 'gravity without airs', and it stuck with me. That's what it's all about! Being heavy but not putting on airs -- that's what my favorite musicians do. In these days of social media and constant hype and self-promotion, this is what we should really aspire to: do the work and study, get into your thing and avoid showing it off half-cooked. Matthew and Michael have that sort of grace. I was really touched because once we started playing, they both got excited and wanted to play more and more -- that's how we ended up with a double album,' Knuffke recalls. 'I hope people can listen to it as a whole, so they can hear all the subtleties as well as the shape and flow of the album. I have to say: I'm especially proud of this one.' Liner notes by Francis Davis." "Rhythmically precise, New Orleans funky and full of grace, Kirk Knuffke's music is a reflection of his multifaceted personality: part musical sage, part jazz philosopher, a self-taught musician with wide interests, endless curiosity and an abundance of good humor." --DownBeat