James Taylor once sang, "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time/Any fool can do it/There ain't nothin' to it..." Well, for pianist Richard Kimball, the secret of life, as exhibited on his unaccompanied solo release, The Art of Aging, is to push forward with a bright resolve, even when life's low notes threaten to pull you down. In this 10-song performance, Kimball promotes an approach where cooperation between hands and, at times, voice, results in a synergistic, one-man symphony.
Even though this CD's cover may, at first glance, look like a somber acknowledgment of The End – note the leafless tree branches (aging) -- the brightly-colored sky (art) balances off this inevitability with hope, energy, and the always-remembered innocence of youth. These contrasts, possibilities, and realities are all explored and celebrated on The Art of Aging.
"Make Hay While the Sun Shines," the opener, contains a relaxed, loping-type feel. One can almost envision a child skipping at the playground with its dancing upbeats on one and two, followed by the downbeats on three and four. What makes this track most interesting is the contrast that Kimball brings into its latter stages. After attempting a passage that flirts with boogie-woogie, he then sings/scats along as he repeats the pattern for very effective effect. The childlike images at the start, combined with this older man's voice, make this multi-generational piece work quite well.
Have you ever wanted to hear what is playing inside a cat's head during a melody or solo? Well, Kimball allows our ears to eavesdrop in an aural/oral wood-shedding on "I'll Be Somewhere," as he plays and sings the wordless melody. On this track especially, Kimball's bass and melody lines are in parallel unison. The lines are equally out front without one deferring to the other. Here, the "top" is as distinctive as the "bottom."
"Blackout in Bolivia," however, is driven by a precise, repetitive bass line that allows Kimball's right hand to create ideas through notes that fly in multiple directions. As the soloist hand climaxes and concludes, the (almost forgotten) bass line reappears, maintaining its presence and influence, serving a purpose quite similar to a metronome.
For the title track, which is the CD's centerpiece, Kimball revisits the sense of play apparent on the opener. His emotions celebrate childhood in its purest, most joyful state, when natural curiosity and perspective are not yet soiled by society's expectations, bigotry, reality-soothing substances, or life experience. Mostly assertive in approach, this song also has a few slowdowns which, most likely, represent the disappointments that come in any life. The resiliency apparent in the playing from the low end also makes this track very distinctive.
When explaining the concept for The Art of Aging – which was inspired by a chamber-music score he wrote for a PBS series entitled "Grow Old Along With Me," -- Kimball states, "This recording is dedicated to the belief that the portion of life we call aging can be negotiated with finesse and grace...that it can be lived artfully." Let's add onto Kimball's explanation by revisiting JT's reminder about the "Secret O' Life," when he concluded: "Try not to try too hard/It's just a lovely ride."