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For all the hype that's been lavished on piano trios over the past few years, there are still signs of musical life in the lineup, as Bruxin' exemplifies. This programme of worthwhile music could also serve as a statement of artistic intent, implying a welcome level of individuality.
Stetch has gone for a comparatively risky option in putting together a programme of eleven original compositions for this his first trio album in a while, and the way in which the likes of "Inuit Talk," the title track and "Chord-Free Gord" evoke the singular rhythmic sensibility of Herbie Nichols offers a happy alternative to the usual displays of technical flashnot least because it means that the music demands closer listening than most efforts the modern mainstream field, where the exercise often seems to be more a matter of ticking boxes than striving for stimulating listening.
Those three pieces contrast sharply with "Heavens Of A Hundred Days," illustrating the diversity of Stetch's compositional range and the fact that his lyricism never descends to a mawkish level. Bassist Sean Smith and drummer Rodney Green are unusually empathetic with the mechanics of Stetch's work and the idiosyncrasies of his compositions.
As a pianist Stetch never overplays, and though there is little reason to doubt the high level of his technical acumen, he never uses it as an end in itself. And so this body of music transcends any limitations that might be inherent in the format.
Track Listing: Inuit Talk; Bruxin'; Circus; Green Grove; The Girl In The Hemp Shirt; Chord-Free Gord; How Far Is Callisto; The Prairie Unfolds; Snark; Heavens Of A Hundred Days; Rectangle Man.
Personnel: John Stetch: piano; Sean Smith: bass; Rodney Green: drums.