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The Louis Stewart Trio: Louis The First

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The Louis Stewart Trio: Louis The First
Long before Irish guitarist Louis Stewart released his debut album, the punningly titled Louis The First, none other than Joe Pass was singing his praises. Pass was not the only one; Ronnie Scott, who hosted many of the great jazz guitarists in his famous London venue, considered Stewart to be one of the best. Stewart was 31 years old when Hawk Records released this album. By then, the Dubliner could draw on a decade of touring—and occasionally recording—with the likes of Tubby Hayes, Clark Terry and Benny Goodman. Not for nothing does his playing sound so thrillingly assured.

The standards were bread and butter to Stewart, but there is nothing ordinary about his playing here. Whether caressing a ballad, reveling in the blues, tearing loose over swing-based rhythms or diving deep into Latin romanticism, Stewart displays an exceptional technique marked by lightning-fast fluidity, rhythmic drive and a keen harmonic sensibility.

On half these tracks Stewart is joined by bassist Martin Walshe and drummer John Wadham. For sheer thrills, Jerome Kern and Roger Hammerstein's "All the Things You Are" and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "O Grande Amor" stand out, with the rhythm section working feverishly as Stewart frolics. Even at breakneck speed Stewart displays a wealth of ideas, with hints of Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery filtering through.

Though he could juggle fire all day, Stewart's balladry is arguably just as arresting. One would be hard pressed to find more captivating, more deftly rendered versions of Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns," Jimmy Van Heusen's "Here is that Rainy Day" or Joseph Kosma's "Autumn Leaves." Those three tracks feature Stewart solo, a signpost to the acclaimed solo album, Out On His Own released the following year on Livia Records.

The Dublin label founded by Gerald Davis folded upon his passing in 2005. Happily, Livia Records rides again thanks to the efforts of Dermot Rogers, with the aim of reissuing Louis Stewart's work, as well as releases by his contemporaries. Through these reissues, the genius of Louis Stewart is clear. But do not take our word for it, as a new generation of guitarists from Mary Halvorson to Kurt Rosenwinkel, and from Ant Law to Eleonora Strino has plenty to say in this regard.

This high-quality production comes with a 16-page booklet featuring the insights and reminiscences of jazz journalist Ray Comiskey and long-time Stewart collaborator Jim Doherty. A previously unreleased trio version of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," with a quite stunning solo from Stewart, is the cherry on the proverbial cake. Jazz royalty? Better believe it.

Track Listing

All The Things You Are; Bluesology; Body and Soul; Send In The Clowns; O Grande Amor; Here’s That Rainy Day; Alone Together; Autumn Leaves; Footprints.

Personnel

Martin Walshe
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: Louis The First | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Livia Records


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