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Loren Stillman: Blind Date

Mark F. Turner By

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For alto saxophone aficionados, Loren Stillman's Blind Date is an exquisite release. An intrepid artisan with virtuosity, a refined tone and evocative phrasing; it's hard to believe that the London-born musician is only in his twenties. But with a number of recordings as a leader he's showing that practice does indeed strive for perfection.

The recording is a progressive set of Stillman originals that are equally atmospheric and acutely performed with a band of like-minded players including the ubiquitous talents of bassist Drew Gress, pianist Gary Versace, and drummer Joey Baron. The music lays its markers in avant-garde and modern jazz composition, suggesting a more progressive stance than heard on Stillman's previous Steeplechase recordings— Trio Alto Volume 1(2006) and Trio Alto Volume 2(2007).

There's a distinct persona within the nine compositions that embodies sophisticated imprints of chamber music with deft improvisation on "Blind Date" and "Etude." On "What Will Other People Think" there's a Monk-ish staggered cadence that swells and shrinks, whereas "Shape Shifter" develops slowly, like a blossoming flower, starting with a commanding solo by Gress, then moving into an elegant yet progressive piece as Stillman's lithe and warm voice takes the lead. It also includes some heady interaction between Gress, Versace, and Baron—the perfect balance of composition and musicianship.

The odd-metered groove of "Theme For A New Regime" is a feat, not for the faint-of- heart, with its propulsive backbeat and Stillman's voice turning on the flames. The implied swing of "Major" is catching, as the musicians collaborate and eagerly exchange spontaneous ideas, and features a definitive closing solo from Baron.

Loren's writing is increasingly challenging and thought-provoking, and the fittingly named "Don't be Too Nice" is a good case in point. What begins as a peaceful motif morphs into a twisting melange of notes and solos. Here, Versace's brilliant solo is imaginative and whimsical. Another highlight is "Legroom," where the instruments engage in a complicated dance, moving in and out of the rousing melody.

The alto saxophone still thrives in this tenor-sax dominated arena. The role call is still going with respected names of time-weathered leaders like Charlie Parker, Lee Konitz and Greg Osby, and emerging new players—Miquel Zenon, Logan Richardson and certainly Loren Stillman—bringing up the rear.

Track Listing: Blind Date; What Will Other People Think; Etude; Shape Shifter; Theme For A New Regime; Don't Be Too Nice; Major; Legroom; Etude - Reprise.

Personnel: Loren Stillman: alto saxophone; Gary Versace: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Joey Baron drums.

Title: Blind Date | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Pirouet Records

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