The Stein Brothers Quintet: Quixotic (2008)
The theatre darkens and the curtain opens. The opening frame on the silver screen shows a foggy, cliff-side road like the Pacific Coast Highway. An Austin-Healey convertible, with the top down, is negotiating the curves along the scenic stretch. As the camera slowly zooms in on the driver's head, the music from the radio is clearly heard as the date stamp1956appears on the screen in small letters. The music is lilting West Coast bebop with an altoist taking control and spinning off into an Art Pepper statement. When he concludes, the melodic tenor saxophonist Stan Getz takes over.
The Brothers Steinaltoist Asher and tenor man Alexalbeit relatively new to the recording industry, have had bebop in mind for some time. They used to jam at The Peppermint Lounge in Orange, New Jersey with Jimmy McGriff and Charles Earland at the tender ages of thirteen and fifteen, later performing on the local music scene when they were undergraduates at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Whether or not the Steins can be regarded as reincarnations of bebop saxophonists, their very musically astute group takes charge, providing terrific warm weather entertainment.
The music consists of a few well chosen standards, several originals by the Steins and pianist Mferghu, as well as Barris Harris' obscure "And So I Love You" from Vicissitudes (MPS, 1972), which boasts a great, catchy melody.
The use of the Great American Songbook is maximized through some choice examples. On Gershwin's "Embraceable You," Asher Stein takes the first solo, now more suggestive of Lee Konitz, followed by Alex, who displays a lot of Ben Webster's signature breathy tone. Brooks Bowman's "East of the Sun" is given a mid-tempo ride that is fully cognizant of the famous saxmen who have been there before. On the album's closer, Arlen and Mercer's "This Time the Dream's On Me" the brothers take an up-tempo exit with style.
The Stein Brothers' contribute some tuneful originals, including the title song, "Eve's Drop," "Charmed Quark" and the fast-charging "Trailblazer," loosely based on "Cherokee." Mferghu, a disciple of Barry Harris, shows his playing and compositional mettle on "Jammin' at the JCT" and "You've Been Had." Trumpeter Duane Eubanks guests on three tracks, excelling on the Harris tune, while trombonist Jonathan Voltzok appears on four.
Asked what is new and exciting in jazz while still paying homage to its bebop past, Quixotic is a fine reply.
Track Listing: Quixotic; And So I Love You; Jammin' At The JCT (Jazz Cultural Threatre); Embraceable You; Eve's Drop; Midlife Crisis; East of the Sun; Mr.QC; Charmed Quark; Trailblazer; You've Been Had; This Time The Dreams On Me.
Personnel: Asher Stein: alto sax; Alex Stein: tenor sax; Mferghu: piano; Doug Largent: bass; Joe Blaxx: drums; Duane Eubanks: trumpet (2, 3, 6); Jonathan Voltzok: trombone (2, 3, 6, 9).