One of the more individualistic acoustic pianists of the '80s, '90s, and 2000s, Frank Kimbrough is an "inside/outside" improviser whose primary influences range from Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett to Cecil Taylor, Paul Bley, and Andrew Hill. Kimbrough can play with as much elegance as Evans or Jarrett, but that doesn't prevent him from often taking it "outside" and acknowledging Taylor's innovations. The pianist was born and raised in North Carolina, where he learned to appreciate a wide variety of jazz growing up, and did some gigs around Chapel Hill before moving to Washington, D.C., in 1980. During the year he lived in D.C., Kimbrough led his own trio and played a few hard bop gigs with Webster Young and Buck Hill. When Bill Evans died in September 1980, Kimbrough joined Anthony Braxton for a two-night gig paying tribute to the influential pianist.
Kimbrough moved to New York in 1981, and he started recording under his own name five years later. Two cassette-only releases he did for Mapleshade, 1986's Star Crossed Lovers (an unaccompanied solo piano effort) and 1987's Double Visions (a duet with drummer Steve Williams), are out of print, although Mapleshade released his 1988 trio recording, Lonely Woman, on CD in 1995. The 1990s found Kimbrough keeping busy by teaching at New York University and playing as a sideman in Maria Schneider's big band (which he's been a member of since 1993) and the quartet of saxophonist Ted Nash. Kimbrough has also been a key member of the Herbie Nichols Project, a band that has dedicated itself to playing and recording the music of the great but underexposed pianist Herbie Nichols. The band has been directed by bassist Ben Allison, who featured Kimbrough on the Project's Love Is Proximity album on Soul Note and his own albums Seven Arrows and Medicine Wheel. The two musicians are also co-founders of the Jazz Composers Collective. Founded in 1992, the group features music by forward-thinking composers.
In 1998, Igmod released Chant, a CD containing recordings Kimbrough made in 1992 and 1997; Saturn's Child appeared a year later, followed by 2000's Noumena. A collaboration with Joe Locke resulted in the heady The Willow, released on Omnitone in 2001. The live album Quickening was released two years later on the same label. Since then, Kimbrough has moved to the Palmetto label, releasing Lullabluebye and Play in 2004 and 2006, respectively. ~ Alex Henderson