Guitarist Jamie Stewardson's new album, whose title refers to a ten-beat rhythmic cycle frequently used in Indian music, brings together a talented ensemble to explore nine original compositions. With Stewardson are tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, vibraphonist Alexei Tsiganov, bassist John Hebert and drummer George Schuller.
Stewardson studied under John Abercrombie and Mick Goodrick at the Banff Jazz Workshop and the New England Prep School. His initial experience dealt with supporting pop and R&B acts in a cruise ship setting; he also worked with George Russell, Mat Maneri and Jimmy Guiffre. I have to admit becoming a bit uneasy upon reading the liner notes, where a then-fifteen Stewardson proclaims his love for John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra and Chick Corea's pioneering fusion group Return to Forever. However, in listening to Stewardson's performances, I cannot help but be surprised to find no reference to those groups' styleunless, of course, he is also referring to McLaughlin's current playing. His guitar work shows clear articulation in a mainstream style, though his playing on the latter half of the album does lean more towards a more blurred articulation and faster pace. In addition, some of the compositions, like "Rest Area" and "Olive Oil," have a pronounced beat that could be incorporated into a jazz/rock setting.
Tony Malaby, who is currently boasting a buzz on the downtown NYC scene as a key free jazz player, is heard here to even better advantage (for mainstream purposes). Given a shortened solo time (about one minute), Malaby constructs a series of intelligent and muscular statements that are among the highlights of this album. Vibraphonist Alexei Tsiganov, who provides the melody lines (along with Malaby) and comping for the "missing" piano, is another definite asset. Tsiganov also gigs regularly with Norman Headman's Tropique, a Latin jazz combo based out of NYC which I've seen on several occasions. The presence of the vibes always adds to that presentation (think of Cal Tjader on his Fantasy recordings with Mongo Santamaria). Tsiganov's playing on Jhaptal is vital, providing a smart, often four-mallet presence.
Personnel: Jamie Stewardson:guitar; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Alexei Tsiganov: vibraphone; John
Hebert: bass; George Schuller: drums.