Jazz and music critic for major daily newspaper, also syndicated by Newhouse News Service, from 1968 to 2002; frelance since.
Fresh Sound-New Talent
Drummers Bill Stewart and Jordi Rossy both lead trios featuring piano (acoustic), Hammond organ and drums on their albums. But Rossy, a Spanish drummer best known for his work with pianist Brad Mehldau, makes his debut here as a pianist-leader.
Piano and organ aren't paired that often, although there is a history going back at least to organist Wild Bill Davis' stint with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and Count Basie's recordings (the Count on organ) with Oscar Peterson. In the trio contexts here, the organs bring a thickening, orchestral element to the sound, giving unusual heft to the trio format. Yet these trios don't share very much beyond instrumentation. Stewart's is propelled by, and emphasizes, his drum kit rhythms and colors, while giving pianist Kevin Hays and organist Larry Goldings wide leeway in creative approaches to soloing and interacting. Rossy's trio is more anchored to his rather deliberate and deliberately simpleat best hypnotic, at worst ploddingpiano playing, with mostly slow tempos, lots of brushwork from drummer RJ Miller and often moody organ from Albert Sanz.
Incandescence is an adventurous album, full of small astonishments and happy tangents, all products of Stewart's composing skills. The paired "Portals Opening" and "Opening Portals" contrast a static theme with a modal feel over open drum tattoos, an accelerating momentum and semi-free improvising (the former) and a fugue for piano and organ with quick-time drumming contrasting with half-time piano, all of it swinging (the latter). Stewart's splashy, open cymbal approach invigorates the shuffle of "Knock On My Door," also notable for Goldings' calliope-like comping. Shifting tempos and/or time are cornerstones of Stewart's strategy, from the swirling centrifugal radiance of the title track to the snap, crackle and stop-start of "Four Hand Job" and 4/4-2/4 alternations of the boppishly springy "Tell A Televangelist." Hays stretches his chops throughout, never content with a predictable chord when a cluster or trill will surprise and delight, yet capable of lyrical restraint on "See Ya," a ballad with Goldings on accordion.
Wicca is a largely ruminative album, Rossy somewhere on the piano spectrum between George Winston and his sometimes employer Mehldau. "Sexy Time," the opening track, establishes a sound and mood from which the CD rarely strays. Whether the piano is in the lead, organ droning behind, or organ leads, in churchy mode, with piano chords underneath, that sound is consistent and, at its best, mesmerizing. A comfort zone is established and observed, only breached noticeably on the title track, the CD's longest, adding trumpet and tenor sax and combining disparate elements of tempo and form into an intricate yet harmonious texture.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Knock On My Door; Toad; Portals Opening; Opening Portals; See Ya; Four Hand Job; Tell A Televangelist; Metallurgy; Incandescence.
Personnel: Bill Stewart: drums; Larry Goldings: Hammond organ, accordion; Kevin hays: piano.
Tracks: Lucky Charms; Reminscent; The World Awakes; Little Tenderfoot; Scratch, Mumba Neua; To You Dear One; Little Tenderfoot (Reprise); Single Petal of a Rose.
Personnel: Jordi Rossy: piano; Albert Sanz: organ; R.J Miller: drums; Felix Rossy: trumpet; Enrique Oliver: tenor sax.
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