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John Stein: Portraits and Landscapes

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No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Once in a while an artist comes along who simply takes you by surprise and that in turn is what keeps jazz the evolving and appealing art form that it is. Such is the case with guitarist John Stein, a mainstay on the Boston jazz scene and an established artist who certainly is deserving of wider appreciation. For his third set as a leader, Stein finds himself allied with the German-based Jardis label, a concern that focuses exclusively on fine guitar jazz. In a set of ten pieces composed exclusively by Stein, with the exception of “Moonlight in Vermont,” the case is strongly made for this serious mainstream swinger who comes through with the kind of skillful and deceptive simplicity that marks the work of such fellow guitarists as Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, Jimmy Raney, and Mundell Lowe. Actually, with the line-up on hand and the overall style, this reviewer was strongly reminded of the classic, but obscure Guitar Groove album by Rene Thomas.

Throughout the disc, Stein paces things remarkably well. Pretty pieces such as “Sarlat” with Bill Thompson’s airy flute work contrast well with the Brazilian-tinged numbers like “Samba Nights” and “Rio Con Brio.” The blues and more soulful vistas are also part and parcel of Stein’s musical landscapes. Bill Thompson lends his strapping tenor to several numbers with great results, while Larry Goldings reminds us that he can play piano with the same degree of individuality and refinement that already distinguishes him as a master organ grinder (Goldings does sit down at the B-3 for “Sammy”). Well worth the extra effort it may take to track down this one, guitar fans are clearly in for a treat!

Track Listing: Samba Nights, Moonlight in Vermont, Be Ooo Ba, Sarlat, Mister Dave, Madelyn, Sammy, Rio Con Brio, Ben J Man, Switch-a-Roo

Personnel: John Stein (guitar), Larry Goldings (piano & organ), Bill Thompson (flute, alto & tenor saxophone), Keala Kaumeheiwa (bass), Greg Conroy (drums)

Record Label: Jardis Music

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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