Marvin Stamm: Fantasy & Alone Together

Ken Dryden By

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The Marvin Stamm Quartet
Alone Together
Jazzed Media

Bill Mays
The Inventions Trio: Featuring Marvin Stamm & Alisa Horn

Marvin Stamm has worked with many big band leaders, including units led by Woody Herman, Thad Jones & Mel Lewis and Stan Kenton. But his lyrical style of trumpet and flugelhorn is best heard in small group settings. Beginning in 2000, he has recorded far more frequently as a leader himself, often with his good friend, pianist Bill Mays. Two examples of his recent work include a combined CD/DVD of a 2006 concert with Mays plus an unusual trio date led by the pianist, adding classical cellist Alisa Horn, that focuses primarily on classical themes, along with an original suite.

Stamm and Mays have been improvising on classical repertoire for some time and naturally decided to record some of their explorations for Fantasy. They completed a few duets together in 2001, including a jaunty take of George Gershwin's "Prelude No. 2", a stunning rendition of Alexander Scriabin's "Prelude Op. 11 #3" that segues into a shimmering interpretation of the South American favorite "Sometime Ago", along with an elegant take of Baroque master Johann Sebastian Bach's well-known "Invention #8" that makes a very logical transition into Charlie Parker's "Ah-Leu-Cha", while also adding a bit of the 18th century to the bop standard. Their jubilant take of "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" also belongs, as this show tune from Kismet was actually adapted from a work by classical composer Alexander Borodin.

Stamm introduced classical cellist Alisa Horn to Mays and suggested they play together, which resulted in an instant chemistry. In 2005, they recorded several tracks as a trio, including a haunting take of Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise" and a pastorale interpretation of French Impressionist Claude Debussy's "Girl With the Flaxen Hair". The centerpiece of this session is Mays' three-movement title track, a lively commissioned suite that showcases all three players at their very best. Although still finding her way as an improviser, Horn doesn't exhibit the stiffness that many famous classical players have shown when trying to play on a record date with jazz musicians. Clearly the inspired work of The Inventions Trio merits a return trip into the studio.

The Marvin Stamm Quartet: Alone Together is a rare treat for jazz lovers: a double disc package with both a CD and DVD from a club date in 2006 containing identical performances (with a little more conversation between numbers on the latter). Stamm and Mays are joined by bassist Rufus Reid and their frequent collaborator Ed Soph on drums. The opening track is an atypical approach to a familiar standard. Mays hand-mutes chords and Reid plays a droning line in a rather striking, funky setting of "Alone Together", with Stamm serving as the straight man on trumpet. Reid's intricate bop vehicle "Come Out and Play" is full of twists, showcasing Stamm's inventive flugelhorn. The combination of Stamm's bittersweet, mellow larger horn and Mays' string strumming add new blood to the standard "Invitation".

The originals are equally enjoyable. Stamm's "When She Looks at Me" is a dreamy ballad perfect for late night listening, though Mays steals the show a bit; his "T's Butter" is a wild reworking of Sonny Rollins' "Oleo" (which is in turn based on "I Got Rhythm") that brings down the house. Mays' original "Lagrima Agradecida" is an engaging bossa nova while his "Fun House" opens as an abstract piano-drum duet then switches to a challenging post-bop theme.

The audio, camera work and editing is first rate, in spite of having to deal with a small stage and an audience very close to the players.

Tracks and Personnel

Alone Together

Tracks: Alone Together; Come Out and Play; Invitation; Baubles, Bangles and Beads; Lagrima Agradecida; Fun House; When She Looks at Me; 'T's Butter.

Personnel: Marvin Stamm: trumpet and flugelhorn; Bill Mays: piano; Rufus Reid: bass; Ed Soph: drums

The Inventions Trio: Featuring Marvin Stamm & Alisa Horn

Tracks: Baubles, Bangles and Beads; Vocalise; Fantasy Movement 1; Fantasy Movement 2; Fantasy Movement 3; Prelude #2; Prelude Op. 11 #3/Sometime Ago; Girl With Flaxen Hair; Invention #8/Ah-Leu-Cha.

Personnel: Bill Mays: piano; Marvin Stamm: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alisa Horn: cello.

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