I spoke with Steve Kuhn in 2004. The pianist had just released the album, Promises Kept, which fulfilled his goal of recording a program of original compositions with a string ensemble. The record was a posthumous tribute to his parents Stella and Carl Kuhn. Bob Blumenthal, a close observer of Kuhn’s career for several decades, said that “in giving full reign to his emotions, Kuhn has created both his most personal and his most beautiful recording.”
Our conversation began with Kuhn’s recollections of his parents and his early years as a piano prodigy; the profound influence of his teacher, Madame Chaloff, and his work with her son, baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff, at nightclubs in Boston when Kuhn was in his teens; his experience at the School of Jazz in Lenox, Mass., in 1959; and his early years in New York playing with Kenny Dorham, John Coltrane, Art Farmer, and Stan Getz. We also discussed his friendship with bassist Scott LaFaro and the grief he experienced over Scotty’s sudden death in a car accident in 1961; the period he spent living in Sweden in the late ‘60s, and his long-standing collaborations with Steve Swallow and Sheila Jordan; and the challenge of maintaining a career as the leader of a jazz piano trio.
Kuhn’s 80th birthday is March 24, 2018. Click here for the interview.