Marvin Stamm Quartet: Alone Together

Jerry D'Souza By

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The Marvin Stamm Quartet
Alone Together
Jazzed Media

CD/DVD packages are still relatively unusual, but then the musicians responsible for this one are not your usual collection of players. Marvin Stamm (trumpet and flugelhorn), Bill Mays (piano), Rufus Reid (bass) and Ed Soph (drums) are a positive and cohesive force. They have been playing together for a long time, their first recording, The Stamm/Stoph Project (Marstam Music), released in 2000. Stamm and Mays have also played and recorded as a duo. Before going into the studio to record this session, the foursome spent a week on a jazz cruise on which they played four concerts. Upon return to port, Stamm thought it an appropriate time for the group to put some music down, and in front of a "live" audience. He was right.

The material for the session is choice, and the quartet delves into it with spirited emotion. They create and reinvent with consummate ease, their hearts set firmly in the pulse. "Alone Together, their starting point, finds Mays priming a deep well of ideas—his stops and starts, use of space, and sparkling runs the source of constant delight. Stamm comes in, swinging and buoyant in his statement of the melody, then building intensity around his improvisations.

Likewise, the ethereal melody of Lagrima Agradecida," a Latin composition by Mays, floats on the spirited stream of Stamm's trumpet before proving just the right stimulus for the solo constructions of each player. Stamm injects some flinty phrases, holding to a harder line before changing tack with billowing notes. Mays seamlessly grabs the melody, then punctuates and fuels it with intensity, all the while proving no less a melodist than the trumpeter.

'T's Butter, the closer on the program, drives into hard bop. The tempo is flexible, opening space for Stamm and Mays to jump in with an engaging dialogue of tastefully ripe phrases. The pair's melodic inventiveness is complemented by their attention to dynamics—at once colourful and trenchant, for which equal credit is due Soph and Reid, who moreover lay down a rhythm bed with artful conviction.

The music on the companion DVD is the same as that on the audio disc, but the visual dimension brings the viewer closer to the group and, as a result, offers its own distinct pleasures. As spectator, the listener can appreciate the way the quartet interacts with an audience, having fun and establishing a warm, relaxed atmosphere conducive to inspired playing.

Finally, the two-fer offers even more rewards. We become privileged witnesses to the amused look and the twinkle in the eye of Mays playing directly on the strings of the piano; to the technique and physical grace of Soph with the brushes while hearing his creativity with accents on the traps and snares; to the mastery of Reid as the camera closes in on his digital fluidity; and to the articulate, commanding Stamm in his multiple roles as moderator, leader, trumpet master and artist. It's a multileveled treat, as the camera work and direction draw the viewer into a stimulating vortex of emotions and sensations.

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.

Production Notes: 79 minutes. Recorded November 5, 2006 at Rising Jazz Stars, Beverly Hills, CA

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