I first met pianist Frank Kimbrough nearly 30 years ago when he was a member of the New York City-based Jazz Composers Collective. Playing alongside bassist Ben Allison, trumpeter Ron Horton, saxophonists Ted Nash and Michael Blake, these musicians sponsored concerts of new original music, helped fellow musicians with grant applications, find venues to play, and more. He was also a member of the Herbie Nichols Project, an ensemble whose goal was expose the music of Nichols to a larger audience. In 1993, the North Carolina native joined the Maria Schneider Orchestra and has since toured regularly with the large ensemble as well as recording eight albums with the composer-arranger. He joined the faculty at the Juilliard School in 2008 after a stint at NYU plus continued to conduct workshops up until the pandemic struck.
Now, just as 2020 is about to come to a close, Frank Kimbrough has passed from this world. Already, tributes are filling Facebook and Twitter, blogs, and, by morning, newspapers and websites. In a year known for its numerous losses, especially in the arts community, the pianist's passing still seems cruel as he continued to be playing at a high level of creativity. He was generous with this time for students, fellow musicians, and writers. Other people will write about his influences, about his many fine albums, and seeing him concert where he would draw listeners in on the strength of his melodic creativity. Many of us will miss Frank Kimbrough as a person, as a teacher, mentor, a messenger of joy and peace in both good times and dark days. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Maryanne deProphetis.