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Bill Stewart: Incandescence

Mark F. Turner By

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Sometimes it's the more unusual releases that yield the most pleasant surprises and such is the case with Bill Stewart's Incandescence. The seasoned drummer has been the percussive impetus for saxophonists Maceo Parker, Michael Brecker, guitarist John Scofield and one of today's premier B3 organists, Larry Goldings (who appears on this release). Stewart has a number of recordings as a leader, but now has a few tricks up his sleeve with the unusual trio setting of piano, Hammond organ, and drums.

Completing the triad is pianist Kevin Hays who is no stranger to forward-thinking music as heard on Fear Of Roaming (Fresh Sound, 2004). But it's not just the instrumentation or the towering skills of each member that makes Incandescence glow, but it's also Stewart's oft-times idiosyncratic and refreshing compositions.

"Knock On My Door" literally opens thing up with a quirky groove-strut, marked by the organ's off-key tonality. Hays and Goldings trade the melody, settle nicely into the pocket, as Stewart lays down the sticks with shuffles, taps, and beats. "Toad" is next, a swinger with debonair, the dual timbres of the piano and organ works wonders, each complimenting the other.

If you think this is just some passe organ-trio music, the inversely titled "Portals Opening" and "Opening Portals" would beg to differ. The former is an atmospheric tune, Stewart coloring the music with his drumming; the later, a modern hard bop piece noted by Hays' heady free piano and Goldings' reverberating bass pedal. All the tracks were composed by Stewart, and "See Ya" just might have the most personality; a French cafe-like poignancy and Goldings' revealing accordion playing.

More of this eclectic mix is heard on the second half of the recording; the abstract "Four Hand Job" and "Tell a Televangelist," a finger snapping tune with Hays' lyrical solo which contains a clever quote of Diane Warwick's 1967 hit "I Say A Little Prayer." The recording closes just as intriguingly as it began, first with Metallurgy," an eerie drum solo improvisation and then the title song with restless drums, floating organ and luminous piano. What an enjoyable and different ride, Incandescence turns out to be.

Track Listing: Knock On My Door; Toad; Portals Opening; Opening Portals; See Ya; Four Hand Job; Tell a Televangelist; Metallurgy; Incandescence.

Personnel: Larry Goldings: Hammond Organ, accordion; Kevin Hays: piano; Bill Stewart: drums.

Title: Incandescence | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Pirouet Records

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