3

Michael Stephans / Spatial Edition: Open Spaces

Chuck Koton By

Sign in to view read count
Michael Stephans / Spatial Edition: Open Spaces Michael Stephans—educator and published author of prose and poetry—also happens to be a master jazz drummer and percussionist. The Miami-born Stephans, who these days lives in the surprisingly jazz-heavy Pennsylvania Poconos, has performed with world renowned horn players like Pharoah Sanders, Dave Liebman and Bennie Maupin, as well as Grammy-winning pianist, Alan Broadbent, among others. On Open Spaces, Stephans and Spatial Edition perform a dynamic and memorable mix of mostly original music.

The quartet kicks off with the title tune, an up-tempo cooker penned by an old friend from Stephans' days in Los Angeles, pianist and composer Theo Saunders. Zach Brock's hard-swimgin' violin solo gets the fingers snappin' while providing ample evidence of his rising star status. The rhythm section, led by Stephans' light but unrelenting touch, collectively puts the pedal to the metal.

Stephans and friends slam on the aural brakes for "Quo Vadis," a tranquil, meditative composition by two of Poland's top musicians, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and violinist Zbigniew Seifert, to whom (along with the late, great trombonist/composer/arranger Bob Brookmeyer) the recording is dedicated. Veteran pianist Jim Ridl's sparse use of notes, simultaneously soulful and cerebral, evokes the lonely landscapes of the CD's title and cover art.

On the standard, "You Don't Know What Love Is," Brock emotes with a wistfulness that belies his relative youth. His mournful violin and Ridl's probing chords over Stephans' percussive tension paints the blue moods, all but pouring the needed shot of Scotch. Ridl's "Blue Waters" opens gently, like a misty sunrise, Brock and Ridl dance slowly over Stephans' shimmering cymbals, before the band breaks into another finger-snappin' groove.

The recording closes with Brock's "Mr. Shah," on which he bows a European-influenced, deliberate and unaccompanied solo before sneakily picking up the pace. At this point Stephans—à la Art Blakey—and veteran bassist Steve Varner lay down some heavy, visceral rhythms, pushing the band like a jockey drivin' his horse in the Kentucky Derby.

Track Listing: Open Spaces; Quo Vadis; You Don't Know What Love Is; Sno Peas; Gratitude; Blue Waters; Take It With Me; Mr. Shah.

Personnel: Michael Stephans: drums, voice; Jim Ridl: piano; Steve Varner: acoustic bass; Zach Brock: violin, baritone violin.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Lunazure Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Ha Noi Duo CD/LP/Track Review Ha Noi Duo
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Like, Strange CD/LP/Track Review Like, Strange
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Coalesce CD/LP/Track Review Coalesce
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Il sistema periodico CD/LP/Track Review Il sistema periodico
by Nicola Negri
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Code Noir CD/LP/Track Review Code Noir
by James Nadal
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Welcome to Swingsville! CD/LP/Track Review Welcome to Swingsville!
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "Amiira" CD/LP/Track Review Amiira
by John Eyles
Published: June 23, 2016
Read "Steeped" CD/LP/Track Review Steeped
by John Eyles
Published: October 20, 2016
Read "In Movement" CD/LP/Track Review In Movement
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 4, 2016
Read "Still" CD/LP/Track Review Still
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 23, 2016
Read "Take Me To The Alley" CD/LP/Track Review Take Me To The Alley
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 10, 2016
Read "Deeper Journey" CD/LP/Track Review Deeper Journey
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 25, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!