Intricacy and virtuosity can so often turn listeners away if they get excessive, but the Jon Stickley Trio finds that sweet spot where it never sounds awkward. They specialize in a stylistic mishmosh based around (but hardly limited to) folk, jazz and bluegrass, hooky and melodic enough to make any instrumental flash feel like an afterthought. When the melodies don't do that job, the sheer fun factor does. Lost at Last is a cracking album that sizzles with energy even if there isn't an electric instrument to be heard.
The most obvious comparisons are to Nickel Creek and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, with more than a hint of The Bad Plus in the mixan interesting and fitting addition, considering the latter band's Dave King produced the album and has taught the JST's drummer Patrick Armitage in the past. The band doesn't exactly imitate any of those influences but shares their pathological refusal to recognize boundaries. Armitage's grooving is informed by his hip-hop past as much as a jazzy rhythm sense, managing to anchor things most adroitly without the assistance of a bassist.
Lyndsay Pruett makes an excellent foil for Stickely both melodically and tonally, her fluid fiddling making a sweet aural complement to the leader's flat-picked guitar. The three are more than up to the task of staying in unison at any tempo, though these performances still put composition and interplay foremosteven the breakneck centerpieces of "Darth Radar" and "Octopickin'" make sure to break up the full-tilt careening with a couple breathers. Elsewhere the group sounds equally at home with Wasso Grunholtz's gypsy dance "Valse de Wasso" or Stickley's Americana ballad "Pamlico Sound." Whether rollicking or thoughtful, this trio offers a listen as expansive as it is invigorating.
Track Listing: Point to Point; The High Road; Rice Dream; Never Stop; Darth Radar; Octopickin'; Slopes; GOA; Valse de Wasso; Pamlico Sound; Flight of the Durban.
Personnel: Jon Stickley: guitar; Lyndsay Pruett: violin; Patrick Armitage: drums.
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