Bill Stewart Trio
Bill Stewart Music
The trio of instruments on Keynote Speakers is quite unconventional, with keyboardists Larry Goldings and Kevin Hays bookending Bill Stewart's drums. On the opening tune, "Good Goat, Goldings sprints on the Hammond and Hays grooves on the electric piano without stepping on each other's notes. Goldings paints with soulful colors on the bluesy "How Long Is Jazz? with Hays comping admirably on piano and Stewart keeping pace on drums. Stewart's cymbal flourishes frame Hays' haunting intro on "Chorale, and when Goldings falls in he and Hays complement each other beautifully.
"Divine's Intervention is another solid blues, with Goldings' organ taking on the role of the bass in a conventional jazz trio as Hays solos. Stewart's faux military march solo opens "Squid, leading into Hays' hot groove on electric and acoustic pianos. On "Ballad of Kae Hays plays with a tenderness that evokes Bill Evans and Goldings' spare organ augments the aura of mystery.
Goldings' electric piano recalls Joe Zawinul on "Wayne Cooler, which references Weather Report. The song moves between fusion cooking and straight ahead cuisine, with Hays laying down a solid groove around the voice samplings. "Florgan features both men on organ and the overall effect is of the carousel at the devil's playground.
Keyboard master Larry Goldings leads his quartet through various musical avenues on Quartet. In addition to a few originals, the group explores the works of composers as diverse as W.C. Handy, Thelonious Monk and Björk. But in spite of the disc's promise, the end result is mixed.
"Singsong, starts off with Ben Allison's gradually building bass line, then Goldings joins in with a Jarrett-like moodiness on piano. John Sneider adds his plaintive wail on trumpet as Matt Wilson drives the proceedings on drums. Goldings' piano solo on "Valsinha is full-bodied and rich with ideas. "The Wedding is so somber that the tune almost could have been entitled "The Funeral. Goldings' B3 solo, at once bluesy and reverent, saves the day.
Madeleine Peyroux lends her Holiday-inflected vocals to the band's take on Handy's "Hesitation Blues. Goldings swings on harmonium and organ and Sneider's light tone on the trumpet fits the tune like a glove. "Dario and Bario is a waltz that sounds like it was lifted directly from a Fellini film. Goldings, ever the keyboard sojourner, doubles again, this time on harmonium and accordion. "A Dream About Jaki Byard features Sneider's best moment on the disc, a plungered and unfettered cornet solo.
But one wishes that Sneider's tone throughout the disc were stronger. He sounds like he runs out of breath during Björk's "Cocoon, a tune that, even with compelling keyboard effects by Goldings, is somnolent. "Hidalgo seems like a sketch of a song more than a fully realized composition. "Denouement, with Goldings on organ, is another short work, this one resonanting with Ornette Coleman's "Pretty Woman, but which also sounds more like note-taking than songwriting. So while Quartet has an interesting beginning, it loses steam considerably at the end.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Good Goat; How Long is Jazz?; Chorale; Enjoy It; Don't Ever Call Me Again; Just In Time; Divine's Intervention; Squid; Ballad of Kae; Wayne Cooler; Florgan; Haze.
Personnel: Larry Goldings and Kevin Hays: keyboards; Bill Stewart: drums.
Tracks: Singsong; Au Bord de l'eau; Valsinha; The Wedding; Hesitation Blues; Jackie- ing; Dario and Bario; A Dream About Jackie Byard; Cocoon; Hidalgo; Denouement; We Shall Overcome.
Personnel: Larry Goldings: piano, Wurlitzer electronic piano, Hammond organ, harmonium, accordion and glockenspiel; John Sneider: trumpet, cornet; Ben Allison: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.