About Kirk Knuffke
Cornetist and composer Kirk Knuffke is an adventurous performer, with an ear for navigating avant-garde sessions as well as post-bop dates. Knuffke initially drew listeners' attention playing with Butch Morris in the mid-2000s, and has worked with similarly inventive artists including Uri Caine, Allison Miller, and Michael Formanek. A recipient of a Jerome Foundation composers grant, Knuffke has received praise for his own albums, including 2008's Big Wig, 2009's Mockingbird: The Music of Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington, and 2015's Arms & Hands, all of which display his broad stylistic influences, touching upon edgy free improvisation and bluesy swing.
A native of Colorado, Knuffke studied with trumpeter Ron Miles and pianist Art Lande before relocating to New York City in 2005. Since that time, he has earned a reputation as both an in-demand sideman and bandleader, having performed with such artists as Roswell Rudd, William Parker, Uri Caine, Myra Melford, John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Billy Hart, Steven Bernstein, Jon Irabagon, and many others. He is a veteran member of several of Butch Morris' ensembles, having played on 2007's Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris. He also performs regularly as a member of both drummer Matt Wilson's quartet and the Steve Lacy tribute ensemble Ideal Bread.
As a solo artist, Knuffke made his debut with 2008's Big Wig, which found him playing a mix of free jazz and more bop-oriented songs alongside trombonist Brian Drye, bassist Reuben Radding, and drummer Jeff Davis. He followed up with 2009's Garden of Gifts, a trio album with drummer Federico Ughi and guitarist Chris Welcome. Amnesia Brown, with clarinetist and guitarist Doug Wieselman and drummer Kenny Wollesen, appeared in 2010, followed by 2014's Exterminating Angel. He also has an ongoing duo project with pianist Jesse Stacken in which they explore the more obscure works by legendary jazz composers, such as the Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington-themed Mockingbird (2009) and the Charles Mingus-themed Orange Was the Color (2011).
In 2015, Knuffke paired with drummer Hamid Drake and keyboardist Jamie Saft for Little Cross. That same year, he won Down Beat's "Rising Star" critics poll. He also delivered a second trio album, Arms & Hands, which featured bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bill Goodwin. A year later, he joined drummer Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom for Otis Was a Polar Bear, and reunited with Wilson for Beginning of a Memory. Cherryco, a trio effort with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Adam Nussbaum, arrived in 2017. ~ Matt Collar