It was at the Arkansas State Fair in Little Rock a number of years ago that I first saw the Chapman Stick. I had previously been watching guitarist Stanley Jordan and his hammer-on technique for playing guitar as well as the same technique applied a bit differently by Eddie Van Halen, so the concept of "the Stick" was not foreign. What I was struck by was how similar to playing the piano performing on the stick was. It kind of combined the piano and autoharp. The Chapman Stick increased the potential of the guitar by changing its basic nature from a strummed and plucked to a decidedly percussive instrument. The results are impressive.
For present consideration is stickist Steve Adelson’s new Essay Records offering, The Answer’s Inside. First off, jazz purists, read no further. This disc, as Adelson’s last (Sailing down the River, Sane ), may insult your rather conservative sensibilities. In this case, it is hard enough to introduce a new instrument on to the landscape of jazz without adding steel drums to the mix. Steel Drums are the Harry Belefonte of music. Whenever you hear them, you "want to go back to the islands..."
That said, who would like this recording? These performances are perfect for the smooth jazz crowd who wants a hint of the tropics in their highballs. It is highly rhythmic and melodic and displays a light virtuosity that never obscures the music. It is an entertaining listen.