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Don Stille: Keys to My Heart (2008)

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Don Stille: Keys to My Heart How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Although pianist Don Stille doesn't have the sort of style that could readily be uncovered in a blindfold test, he does play with style, not to mention warmth, intelligence and perception. The Chicago-based Stille also plays accordion, an instrument not often in the jazz forefront these days, on five of his second album's eleven tracks. The accordion is so seldom heard, in fact, that it's rather a shock at first listen, eliciting visions of sunny, flower-laden Parisian boulevards rather than dark, smoke-laden Jazz clubs.

Quite appropriately, one of the accordion numbers is John Lewis' "Django," an homage to the legendary Gypsy guitarist whose Hot Club Quintet was the toast of Paris in the 1930s and '40s. The others are Bill Evans' charming "B Minor Waltz," Wayne Shorter's "Yes and No," Gordon Jenkins' "Goodbye" and Duke Ellington's "Squeeze Me." The music of Ellington's alter ego, Billy Strayhorn, is given equal time on piano with an intense, percussive reading of his ballad "Lush Life." The standards "Time on My Hands" and "Cheek to Cheek" are complemented by John Lennon's "And I Love Her" and a pair of rather unusual choices, Claude Thornhill's "Snowfall" and, perhaps most atypical, country singer Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (played solo).

Stille flashes his deft accordion chops on "Yes or No," which hurries along at just below warp-speed, and to a lesser extent on "Squeeze Me" and "Django." The piano is given brisk workouts on "Time on My Hands," "And I Love Her" and especially "Cheek to Cheek," which hearkens at times to the master of them all, Oscar Peterson. Stille is an accomplished pianist, and in his capable hands the accordion is far more than a novelty instrument, validating the jazz credentials established by Joe Mooney, Mat Mathews and Art Van Damme, among others.

Stille's trios (he uses three) are sharp and considerate, with bassists Stewart Miller, John Bany and Dick Bunn (each of whom solos at least once) resting comfortably beside drummers Bob Rummage or Charlie Braugham. In sum, a delightful sixty-eight minutes-plus of contemporary piano-trio jazz with a savory accordion twist.

Track Listing: Time on My Hands; B Minor Waltz; And I Love Her; Cheek to Cheek; I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry; Snowfall; Django; Just Squeeze Me; Lush Life; Yes and No; Goodbye.

Personnel: Don Stille: piano (1, 3-6, 9), accordion (2, 7, 8, 10, 11); Stewart Miller: bass (1, 4, 8-11); John Bany: bass (2, 7); Dick Bunn: bass (3, 6); Bob Rummage: drums (1, 4, 8-11); Charlie Braugham: drums (2, 3, 6, 7).

Record Label: Self Produced

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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