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John Stetch: Standards (2003)

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

The solo piano can be a tough arena, especially when offering up American Songbook classics. John Stetch's Standards, the pianist's second solo outing and his eighth CD overall, succeeds by taking some unlikely—for solo piano—tunes and getting Zen-deep into them, paring things down to their bare essence, and using quirky rhythms and spare, elegant harmonics.

Two of the most interesting tunes are Charlie Parker's "Segment" and "Moose the Mooche," things you don't normally hear in this setting. "Segment" opens the disc with Stetch exploring the theme before he bites into the melody with short, choppy notes and a percussive left hand. His use of silence here is arresting, brief breaks in the action that draw the listener in. "Moose the Mooche" starts with a repeated bass note, eight beats, and again churns into a spare reading, vibrant and introspective.

Stetch also takes on Monk, and while he doesn't lean on Monkisms, he has real feel for the quiet logic and beauty of "Panonica," a tantalizing preview of his next project, a solo piano Monk CD. "Like Someone in Love." "Embraceable You," and "Stella by Starlight" are also included on Standards. Reverent but spare and slightly off-kilter (I guess one could say Stetch-esque) readings. "Stella" is particularly lovely in his hands, brooding and introspective, with the pianist again feeling his way into the center of the melody to expose its beautiful essence.

A fine solo piano effort that holds the listener's interest from beginning to end.


Track Listing: Segment, All the things You Are, Interlude, Out of Nowhere, Like Someone in Love, Embraceable You, Moose the Mooche, Never Let Me Go, Panonica, Stella by Starlight

Personnel: John Stetch, solo piano

Record Label: Justin Time Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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