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Peggy Stern's charms as a pianist and composer are subtle ones. Never flashy or cliched, she takes a "less is more" approach to jazz composition and arrangement, quietly and confidently letting ideas build without smacking the listener over the head with them.
Known best, perhaps, for her collaborations with Lee Konitz, Stern draws on a wide range of influences - including classical, Latin, rhythm 'n' blues, and the modern jazz piano tradition of Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, and Paul Bley. She leads a fine septet here through a set of 11 diverse originals, ranging from the hushed bossa nova of "New Rain" (featuring a vocal choir made up of Stern's students) to the straight-up funk of "Buckleup" and "Leeway" (both featuring the big beat of drummer Bernard Purdie). Other highlights include the elegant waltz, "The Aerie," and "Attila/Zolong," a poignant tribute to the late guitarist Attila Zoller.
The band is impressive throughout, with notable contributions from the horn section of John McKenna on tenor sax, Art Baron on trombone, and Ron Horton on trumpet. Stern herself displays impeccable technique and a delicate touch at the piano, and she's quite capable of turning up the funk when need be. A very satisfying effort from a consummate jazz artist.
Personnel: Peggy Stern, piano; John McKenna, tenor sax; Ron Horton, trumpet; Art Baron, trombone; Harvie Swartz, Art Kell, bass; Bernard Purdie, Tony Moreno, drums; Memo Acevedo, percussion.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.