Nehring/Koller & Braid: Set In Stone (2006)
The Canadian music scene continues to bubble. One of Canada's almost mythical jazz musicians is trumpeter and flugelhornist Fred Stone (1935-86). Stone was the first Canadian to join Duke Ellington's band, and the experience changed him, leading him to become an increasingly unique composer and arranger.
This homage to Stone treats his music with a kind of reverence. Stone wrote all the compositions except Shostakovich's "Demetri's Theme," which he arranged; "Zeynebim," a traditional tune; and the title track, which is made up of his themes. All of the other tracks were arranged by this trio.
Since he plays the lead instrument, David Braid naturally gets the most attention, and he deserves it. The pianist has recorded recently with Phil Nimmons (see Beginnings), who actually played with Stone, and hence is much older. Drummer Loren Nehring and bassist George Koller are also both older than Braid, but only by one generation, instead of two. Braid is an extremely mature player with wide-ranging tastes who balances the rhythm section. While Koller or Nehring come to the front at times, most of the time they create a very tight unit that allows Braid freedom to fly. All three members of the trio also listen closely to each other, which helps immeasurably in bringing this music to life.
The high-quality compositions offer many surprises and don't linger in any one style. One might say that Fred Stone's style is really no style; its main characteristic is the seamless mixing of classical, jazz and folk music. "D Minor Waltz" is a very lovely tune with interesting chord changes. Braid takes his time and breathes life into each phrase of the opening before the band takes off for its exploration. An entirely different feel takes over with the oddly melody-shaped and harmonically elliptical "For Igor," allowing "Demetri's Theme" to be accepted as jazz, rather than a Shostakovich composition.
"Title," "Untitled-Titled" and "Titled-Untitled" feel related by more than their odd names. The first is a short, free-form non-melodic track with lots of pedal, and while the second seems to pick up on intervals that made up the phrases from the first, it sounds entirely different, actually developing a swinging drive. The last piece of this triptych again brings up the shape of the opening phrase, but quite differently once again, sounding at first quite experimental until the bass sets up a pulse, which ultimately devolves back to free playing, only to end with a grand Romantic gesture.
There are Eastern-sounding pieces also, and the almost ten-minute "Set In Stone" could very well be a tone poem creating images of water and grandeur, but with a middle bluesy section thrown in. It is obvious from the very first to the very last notes that the members of this trio feel deeply about this music. Stone was an amazing composer, a real "Third Streamer" in many ways, and his music is given a wonderful treatment here.
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Track Listing: D Minor Waltz; For Igor; Demetri's Theme; Title; Set In Stone; Untitled-Titled; Maiera; Ee-Gypt-Me Part 2; Zeynebim; On, To Babylon; Titled-Untitled.
Personnel: Loren Nehring: drums; George Koller: acoustic bass; David Braid: piano.