John Stetch Trio: Bruxin' (2006)
After recording three finely crafted and well-received solo piano albums, John Stetch returns to the trio format for the first time since Green Grove (1999). Bruxin', his first disc to feature a program comprised entirely of original compositions, finds Stetch looking back on some old gems from his past and offering brand new tunes for the future.
His revisitation of "Inuit Talk," whose clipped melodic lines evoke the speech patterns of the indigenous people of the arctic regions, collides eloquently with Rodney Green's New Orleans-style parade rhythms, creating an atmosphere of what Mardi Gras might sound like at thirty degrees below zero. These are not mere retreads, as revealed by the blissful glide and subtle time shifts of "Green Grove," the quirky rhythmic density of "Snark," and the playfulness of "Rectangle Man," with a fine bass solo by Sean Smith. Instead, the new, looser versions contrast with the originals, displaying a growing imagination and maturity in Stetch's work.
Nowhere is that growth more evident than on the new songs. The title track has just the right combination of bristling chord voicings and disarming lyricismlike vinegar and honeythat Stetch has perfected over the years. "Chord-Free Gord" showcases his current trio's wild side as the hyperactive ensemble trades phrases like tossing a hot potato. By far, the most arresting tune is "How Far is Callisto?," a reworking of John Coltrane's "Satellite," utilizing the Atlantic-era Coltrane changes to great effect in 5/4 time. Stetch's lines are far-flung and imaginative, and all three musicians have a great time toying with the complexities of the time signature, turning the beat upside down and reveling in unabashed rhythmic displacement.
Bruxin' may very well represent a turning point for John Stetch. This album is the most thoroughly satisfying of his group efforts, which is no small feat considering the fine work he's produced over the past fourteen years as a leader and a sideman. Longtime enthusiasts will rejoice at the abundance of fine music to be found here, and newcomers will enjoy hearing a musician at what is sure to be just one of many peaks in an ongoing career.
Track Listing: Inuit Talk; Bruxin'; Circus; Green Grove; The Girl in the Hemp Shirt; Chord-Free Gord; How Far is Callisto?; The Prairie Unfolds; Snark; Heavens of a Hundred Days; Rectangle Man.
Personnel: John Stetch: piano; Sean Smith: bass; Rodney Green: drums.