Frank Kimbrough, a deft and delicate jazz pianist recognized for his work within the Maria Schneider Orchestra and different outstanding teams, and because the chief of his personal small ensembles, died on Dec. 30 at his dwelling in Queens. He was 64.
Ann Braithwaite, his publicist, mentioned that the trigger was not but recognized however that it was believed to be a coronary heart assault.
Informal of gesture however deeply centered in demeanor, Mr. Kimbrough had an understated type that might nonetheless maintain the highlight in trio settings, or match slyly into Ms. Schneider’s 18-piece large band.
In some ways, his enjoying mirrored the Romantic, floating method of his first jazz affect, Invoice Evans. However his off-kilter type as each a participant and a composer additionally known as again to 2 of his extra rugged bebop-era influences: Herbie Nichols and Thelonious Monk, each of whom he finally paid tribute to on file.
In 2018, Mr. Kimbrough put forth “Monk’s Desires: The Full Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk,” probably the most bold recording of his profession, a six-disc assortment on Sunnyside Data spanning Monk’s whole recognized songbook. Mr. Kimbrough’s free and beneficiant spirit as a bandleader permeates the file, driving a quartet that options Scott Robinson on saxophones and different horns, Rufus Reid on bass and Billy Drummond on drums.
All advised, Mr. Kimbrough launched effectively over a dozen albums as a frontrunner, beginning with “Star-Crossed Lovers” (1986), a cassette-only launch for Mapleshade Data, and together with the celebrated recordings “Lullabluebye” (2004), “Play” (2006) and “Stay at Kitano” (2012).
Since 1993, he had appeared on each album besides one by Ms. Schneider, a Grammy winner and Nationwide Endowment for the Arts Jazz Grasp, together with final 12 months’s broadly acclaimed double disc “Knowledge Lords.”
In a New York Occasions evaluate of the trumpeter Ron Horton’s sextet in 2000, Ben Ratliff wrote, “A part of Mr. Kimbrough’s originality takes the type of an nearly passive or Zenlike strategy to an energetic scenario; his solo in an pressing piece known as ‘Groveling’ was a sustained rubato rhapsody, and in any other case he performs cloudlike chords the place you’ll usually anticipate rhythmic stabs.”
Frank Marshall Kimbrough Jr. was born on Nov. 2, 1956, in Roxboro, N.C. His mom, Katie Lee (Currin) Kimbrough, was a piano trainer, and he all the time mentioned that he had been enjoying since earlier than he might bear in mind. His father was a florist. Frank took piano with an area Baptist minister, then briefly studied at Appalachian State College earlier than dropping out as a result of the varsity’s curriculum didn’t have a spot for jazz.
By his mid-20s he was a recognized bandleader on the Chapel Hill scene, and in 1980 he relocated to Washington, the place he gigged with a variety of native stalwarts and got here underneath the wing of the pianist and vocalist Shirley Horn. It was via her that he finally signed with Mapleshade, after shifting to New York Metropolis in 1981. His mentors there included the pianists Andrew Hill and Paul Bley, in addition to the drummer Paul Motian.
“They have been all very type to me, and we’ve spent lots of time collectively,” he mentioned in a 2019 interview with jazztrail.web. “So their affect was not simply musical. I noticed how they labored and we hung out speaking about music, however different issues too.”
Mr. Kimbrough himself went on to be an educator recognized for his dedication to his college students. He taught piano at New York College within the Nineties and in 2008 grew to become a music professor on the Juilliard College, the place he taught till his loss of life.
“I feel it’s my duty to go all the knowledge I’ve realized from these nice musicians on,” he mentioned in 2019. “This music shouldn’t be taught in books, it’s taught individual to individual, and I attempt to give all that away.”
Along with his spouse of 31 years, the vocalist Maryanne de Prophetis, Mr. Kimbrough is survived by his mom and 4 youthful brothers: Conrad, Mark, Edwin and David.
In 1985, he gained the Nice American Jazz Piano Competitors, held yearly on the Jacksonville Jazz Competition in Florida. Within the early Nineties he and the bassist Ben Allison based the Jazz Composers Collective, whose members typically performed and recorded collectively. Their work in that group led to the Herbie Nichols Venture, an effort that was led by Mr. Allison however that featured Mr. Kimbrough prominently.
Mr. Kimbrough listened to a wide selection of music, in jazz and effectively past, typically leaning towards ruminative composers like Morton Feldman or folkloric sources from all over the world.
His favourite place to compose, he mentioned, was on a park bench by the East River, overlooking Manhattan.
“I write issues which can be sketches, one web page lengthy. I like to write down easy items which can be simple to play,” he advised DownBeat in 2016. “There’s a park throughout the road from my home, and I’m going over there at evening, possibly round 11:00, and I sit there. And if an thought hits me, I could stroll across the park with the thought bouncing round my head for six months, after which I would write 16 bars of music.”
A affected person, deliberate course of suited Mr. Kimbrough, and he was bored with any strategy that valued bodily talent over earnest expression. “Music shouldn’t be athletics,” he mentioned. “I’m uninterested in listening to intelligent athletic music.”