How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Joan Stiles' solo piano artfully interprets a clever arrangement of "Take the A Train" and perfectly portrays the full range of emotions inherent in Billy Strayhorn's final composition "Blood Count." This is after leading an octet in which tenor giant Frank Wess and baritone man Joe Temperley cut loose on Clifford Brown's "Daahoud." In addition, the pianist makes all stops in between on Love Call.
Stiles' song selection serves as a wonderful introduction to both her expressive touch, which evinces the influences of Monk, Duke and Erroll Garner, and her wide-ranging arranging abilities. A mainstay of NYC jazz, Stiles has assembled a very impressive line up for her debut as a leader. Besides Frank Wess, jazz legend Clark Terry lends his trumpet to a marvelously bluesy version of Ellington's "Creole Love Call" that also features Temperley on bass clarinet. Terry then uses his flugelhorn to blow the roof off Richard Rodgers' "Surrey with the Fringe on Top." Stiles also tests the compositional waters with "Spherical," an octet tribute to Monk that includes some fine Wess tenor work and a tight trumpet solo by Warren Vaché.
She is also at home in an intimate piano trio with bassist John Webber and drummer Gregory Hutchinson as they jazz up "Tea for Two" and present a care free version of "I've Never Been in Love Before." With all this, her rendition of Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now" proves to be her most powerful statement. Beginning with a beautifully mellow brass voicing, a soprano sax solo courtesy of Jerry Dodgion establishes the perfect mood for Stiles to lead the group through a heartfelt interpretation of the Porgy and Bess standard. With her sincere musicianship and arranging savvy, Joan Stiles is a breath of fresh air.
Track Listing: 1. Spherical
2. When I Fall in Love
4. Creole Love Call
5. Surrey With the Fringe on Top
6. Tea for Two
7. Blood Count
8. Take the "A" Train
9. I've Never Been in Love Before
10. My Man's Gone Now
11. Almost Like Being in Love
Personnel: Joan Stiles, piano/ arrangements;
Frank Wess, tenor sax;
Jerry Dodgion, alto sax;
Joe Temperley, bari sax;
Warren Vache, trumpet;
Wayne Goodman, trombone;
Benny Powell, trombone;
John Webber, bass;
Gregory Hutchinson, drums; and special guest:
Clark Terry, trumpet.