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Kenny Gill the pianist was a wildly unknown figure in free/spiritual jazz. Very few details are known about him outside those provided by his highly rare "What Was, What Is, What Will Be" LP, a 1970 release for the surprisingly well-distributed Warner Bros. records. On that album he recorded with such top jazzmen as Norman Connors and Bob Berg, although he never seems to have released any other material of his own. That album is worth a listen though, both to spritual/free jazz enjoyers and to those who enjoy jazz of all sorts!

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KENNY GILL What Was, What Is, What Will Be album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
What Was, What Is, What Will Be
Avant-Garde Jazz 1971

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KENNY GILL What Was, What Is, What Will Be

Album · 1971 · Avant-Garde Jazz
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In the late 70s, you could go to the very back of a used record store’s jazz section and find all the obscure late 60s-early 70s records that people had unloaded. The late 60s was an interesting period in which the avant-garde, soul jazz and early fusion all converged into what many later called ‘spiritual jazz’. Lengthy African influenced jams, in which almost anything could happen and horn players played hand percussion when they weren’t soloing, were the style of the times. These albums were easy to spot due to the colorful dashikis and massive hair styles of the participants. It is from this cultural backdrop that we get this very Coltrane influenced album, “What was. What is and What will be”, by pianist Kenny Gill. Some sources list this album as rare, but since it can be found on eBay for around $12, it must not be that rare, but its certainly not common either.

Gill has an all-star band on hand here. Bob Berg, Carlos Garnett, Stafford James and Norman Connors were all in the very early stages of their career at this point, but all four went on to enjoy success, but not without their own share of ups and downs. Although there is plenty of free playing on here, this isn’t just a jam session as Gill is very much into arrangements. The music on here varies from straight up modal jams to atonal free parts, as well as long solemn statements that sound like calls to prayer. Gill’s playing reflects his devotion to John Coltrane in that he can channel both McCoy Tyner and Alice Coltrane, yet other times Gill has his own high speed jittery voice that may remind some of Cecil Taylor, but without Taylor’s sheer power.

There is a lot of mystery surrounding this album, who is Kenny Gill and where is he now, and why only one record from him? If you look around on the internet, you will find that at about the same time Gill recorded this on the WB’s Racoon label, he helped the three remaining members of the Youngbloods fulfill a recording contract obligation for the same label by recording a sarcastic Dadaist FU type album called “Crab Tunes/Noggins”. Apparently Gill’s intense piano playing was what they needed to make the album sound over the top. So possibly “What was…” was the Youngbloods thank you to Gill for helping them, or possibly they heard “What was..” first and decided he’d be perfect for the Noggins project, who knows.

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