How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The debut release of the Stein BrothersAsher on alto sax and Alex on tenoroffers a journey into the bop universe, as defined and structured about fifty years ago. It is done in such a joyful and elegant manner, with remarkable conviction and proficiency in bop's rich musical language, that its anachronistic styling can be forgiven.
The Stein brothersnatives of New Jerseyhave studied with bop methodologist and highly appreciated educator Barry Harris, and accordingly draw their inspiration from bebop pioneers such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk. Still, they stay loyal to Harris' gentler approach to interpretation. Along with another Harris disciple Harlem native pianist Mferghu, the group also features Brooklyn-based bassist Doug Largent and Queens-based drummer Joe Blaxx.
The opening title tune, penned by Asher, demonstrates the Stein Brothers' gentle approach, as do other tracks on the album. There is a steady swing feel that leaves the soloistsall the band membersenough space to alternate between Latin-tinged and straight bop time. The cover of Barry Harris' catchy "And So I Love You," features gentle interplay between the Stein Brothers and gueststrumpeter Duane Eubanks and trombonist Jonathan Voltzok. The cover of Gershwin's ballad "Embraceable You" features Alex and Asher taking turns while exploring the melody, with Alex's breathy phrasing clearly referencing the romantic timbre of Ben Webster.
Other tunes feature a more sophisticated approach. Pianist Mferghu's "Midlife Crisis" brings the quintet into hard-bop territory and is used as a vehicle for the fast interplay of Mferghu and the Steins' horns, blending beautifully with Voltzok's trombone. Asher's tight rearrangement of the chord changes of Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" for his own "Charmed Quark" features the quintet again, with Voltzok trading relaxed solos over the theme. Alex's rearrangement of "Cherokee" for his own "Trailblazer" provides a platform for a friendly sax duel; both brothers articulate their solos in a convincing manner. The standard "This Time the Dreams on Me" concludes this fine demonstration of the complexities of the bop lexicon through a series of fast and brief solos.
Track Listing: Quixotic; And So I Love You; Jammin' At The JCT; 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 saxophone; Alex Stein: tenor saxophone;
Mferghu: piano; Doug Largent: bass; Joe Blaxx: drums; Duane Eubanks: trumpet (2, 3, 6); Jonathan Voltzok: trombone (2, 3, 6, 9).