2

Chip Stephens Trio: Chip Stephens Trio: Relevancy

Carlo Wolff By

Sign in to view read count
Chip Stephens Trio: Chip Stephens Trio: Relevancy Chip Stephens is an impeccable technician, a clever, even daring composer, and a restless explorer of melody. Adept at swing and complexity, he unfurls piano lines with a restless authority that marries brawn to delicacy in this collection of originals and transmogrified standards.

Bracketed by a brisk, darting take on Carla Bley's angular "Syndrome" and a breakneck rendition of Bill Evans' "34 Skidoo," Stephens' second Capri CD never flags. It traverses the blues ("Somewhere Before the End"), swing (Sammy Cahn's "Be My Love," done proud and strutting), and the introspective and modernistic ("A Day in May," perhaps the most autobiographical tune, starts as a ballad, then devolves into something more narrative and architectonic).

Far less known than he should be, Stephens is a rippling player equally at home in Bley's "Syndrome" as in Rodgers and Hart's pensive "This Funny World." He's strong in both hands, giving his forays an equity of unusual mass and power. Sparked by the tasty drums of Joel Spencer (check out how he channels Philly Joe Jones on "Be My Love," also a showcase for Dennis Carroll's pointillist bass), "Relevancy" is a kind of comeback.

Stephens' third CD—the first, Bootcamp, was released on the Cleveland label Azica in 1994—is a lamentation-celebration for his father, who died in 2012, as well as a tribute to his own resiliency. In 2008, Stephens and his two sons were in a car accident so bad it was not known whether Stephens would be able to talk or walk again, let alone resume playing piano.

Stephens has indeed returned to playing piano, in spades. "C Hip's Blues," a sassy, heavily chorded affair, swings like a lost Bobby Timmons cut, and "This Funny World"—patient, rubato-steeped, darkling—addresses his reinvigoration with appropriate gravity. The one complaint is that the order of tunes on the jacket doesn't reflect the recording's sequence: "C Hip's Blues" precedes "A Day in May," not the other way around. But that's a design-layout issue.

As a sideman, Stephens is dramatic without ever being a showboat. As leader of this trio, he's authoritative and original, even in his interpretations. What the listener is likely to take away from this excellent CD is an impression of power and clarity, attributes that always make for memorable jazz. Good to have Stephens back on the set.

Track Listing: Track Listing: Syndrome; Like Someone in Love; Somewhere Before the End; This Funny World; C Hip’s Blues; A Day in May; Be My Love; 34 Skidoo

Personnel: Personnel: Chip Stephens, piano; Dennis Carroll, bass; Joel Spencer, drums.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Capri Records


Shop

More Articles

Read Peace and Love: A Tribute to Will Connell CD/LP/Track Review Peace and Love: A Tribute to Will Connell
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 28, 2017
Read Oaktree CD/LP/Track Review Oaktree
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: March 28, 2017
Read Green With Envy CD/LP/Track Review Green With Envy
by James Nadal
Published: March 28, 2017
Read Luma CD/LP/Track Review Luma
by Geannine Reid
Published: March 28, 2017
Read My Foolish Heart CD/LP/Track Review My Foolish Heart
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 28, 2017
Read Ha Noi Duo CD/LP/Track Review Ha Noi Duo
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 27, 2017
Read "Zośka" CD/LP/Track Review Zośka
by Anthony Shaw
Published: April 8, 2016
Read "OWT" CD/LP/Track Review OWT
by John Sharpe
Published: September 18, 2016
Read "Aram Bajakian's Dolphy Formations" CD/LP/Track Review Aram Bajakian's Dolphy Formations
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 28, 2016
Read "The Sparrow" CD/LP/Track Review The Sparrow
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 15, 2016
Read "Together, As One" CD/LP/Track Review Together, As One
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 7, 2016
Read "Refuge In Sound" CD/LP/Track Review Refuge In Sound
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 4, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!