Joan Stiles: Love Call (2004)
On Joan Stiles debut, Love Call, the pianist sometimes had me thinking of Erroll Garner, with a bright elan in her right hand flourishes; and sometimes she had me thinking of Thelonious Monk, with quirky chords and odd angles; but mostly she reminds meas an arranger, not a playerof Ellington, penning her charts, masterfully, with the individual instrumentalists in mind, on this set of solo piano, piano trio, quartet, septet, octet and nonet renditions of familar songs.
The disc opens on a decidedly Thelonious-like note, with Stiles' original, "Spherical," an octet workout that harkens to Monk's septet album, Monk's Music (Riverside, '57), repleat with horn dissonance and the characteristically odd but logical chording.
The rest of the set is composed of songs that anybody with any jazz listening behind them will recognize: Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train" and "Blood Count"; Ellington's "Creole Love Call"; "Tea for Two" (a tune that Thelonious loved and recorded more than once, that Stiles opens with a lush, classical solo interlude before bass and drums join in to give the tune a jaunty sharp-edged prance); Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now" from Porgy and Bess, Clifford Brown's "Daahoud"; Lerner and Lowe's "Almost Like Being in Love"...
The set features vibrant soloing all around, but I've got to mention to two songs on which the eighty-something hornman Clark Terry guests. Duke's "Creole Love Call" has the unusual---and unusually lovelychamber arrangement for piano, trumpet, bass clarinet and alto sax. Terry's got the plunger out here, and he sounds salaciously playful on his solo, while Stiles tries to nail him down with some percussive piano. A dark cool bass clarinet turn comes next (Joe Temperley), followed by Stiles light-stepping piano, followed by the sweet alto of Jerry Dodgion.
"Surrey With The Fringe on Top" has Terry breaking out the flugelhorn for some darker tones and a little bit of grit. Stiles plays darkly also, matching Terry's tone, giving the normally light melody a slightly omonious hue. And listen to Terry's solo; there's nobody like him when it comes to economy of expression stirred in with idiosynchratic, almost insouciant individualism.
An excellent outing. Not excellent for a debut; just plain excellent.
Visit Joan Stiles at www.joanstilesmusic.com
Track Listing: Spherical, When I Fall in Love, Daahoud, Creol Love Call, Surrey With the Fringe on Top, Tea for Two, Blood Count, Take the 'A' Train, I've Never Been in Love Before, My Man's Gone Now, Almost Like Being in Love
Personnel: Joan Stiles--piano; Frank Wess--tenor sax; Jerry Dodgion--alto and soprano saxes; Joe Temperley--bari sax and bass clarinet; Warren Vache--trumpet; Benny Powell--trombone; Wayne goodman--trombone; John Weber--bass; Gregory Hutchinson--drums