How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Michael Stephanseducator and published author of prose and poetryalso happens to be a master jazz drummer and percussionist. The Miami-born Stephans, who these days lives in the surprisingly jazz-heavy Pennsylvania Poconos, has performed with world renowned horn players like Pharoah Sanders
's hard-swimgin' violin solo gets the fingers snappin' while providing ample evidence of his rising star status. The rhythm section, led by Stephans' light but unrelenting touch, collectively puts the pedal to the metal.
Stephans and friends slam on the aural brakes for "Quo Vadis," a tranquil, meditative composition by two of Poland's top musicians, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko
's sparse use of notes, simultaneously soulful and cerebral, evokes the lonely landscapes of the CD's title and cover art.
On the standard, "You Don't Know What Love Is," Brock emotes with a wistfulness that belies his relative youth. His mournful violin and Ridl's probing chords over Stephans' percussive tension paints the blue moods, all but pouring the needed shot of Scotch. Ridl's "Blue Waters" opens gently, like a misty sunrise, Brock and Ridl dance slowly over Stephans' shimmering cymbals, before the band breaks into another finger-snappin' groove.
The recording closes with Brock's "Mr. Shah," on which he bows a European-influenced, deliberate and unaccompanied solo before sneakily picking up the pace. At this point Stephansà la Art Blakey