Grant Stewart has an athletic able-bodied style on tenor that can best be described as muscular. It is no surprise that he lists Sonny Rollins as a major influence but what makes him a standout in the large crowd of hard bop tenorists is his ability to sprint across the keys without sacrificing an ounce of beef. He can be found often headlining shows at Smalls in New York and impressing with his rare combination of speed and power. In the Still of the Night
, his first date as a Sharp Nine leader, has him striking a home with the label's superb "house rhythm section of bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth. These guys can swing with the finest and are able to drive players less adept than Stewart to new levels. Here the results, on tunes like the Cole Porter title cut, reach hard bop heaven.
Rounding out this quartet is another Sharp Nine stable mate (and Sal Mosca student), pianist Tardo Hammer, who is no slouch himself in the fleetness and muscle department. Although "Autumn in New York and Billy Strayhorn's stunning ballad "Lush Life are noticeably smoky respites and Monk's "Work is recast with a sweet tenor/piano voicing, the meat of this session is in Stewart's ability to bop at all speeds in the context of a program of standards. The Richard Rodgers closer "Loads of Love, an inventive version of Lerner & Loewe's "If Ever I Would Leave You and the Bacharach & David chestnut "Wives and Lovers display a foursome that are in control of their Instruments' subtleties while producing a commanding sound.
Expertly recorded and mic'd, Farnsworth's cymbal work rings true and the enormity of Stewart's sound is captured in toto for an album that should please the most discerning of bopophiles.
Personnel: Grant Stewart: tenor saxophone; Tardo Hammer: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Joe Farnsworth: drums.