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John Stein: Portraits and Landscapes

Jack Bowers By

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Here’s an album that definitely lives up to its name, as guitarist John Stein and his colleagues paint a series of exquisite “pictures in sound,” all but one of which were written by Stein himself. The exception is the standard “Moonlight in Vermont,” given a pleasurable ride by Stein’s working trio (bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa, drummer Greg Conroy) and guest pianist Larry Goldings. Stein keeps the music fresh and beguiling by altering form and tempo, using samba, bossa, hard bop, soul Jazz, odd meter and even a boogaloo to underline his purpose. He also varies the size and texture of the group, adding Bill Thompson’s alto on “Be Ooo Ba,” his tenor on “Mister Dave,” his flute on “Sarlat” and “Rio Con Brio,” moving Goldings to Hammond B3 on “Sammy” and employing the trio alone on “Ben J Man.” Stein’s compositions are clear, even–tempered, mellow and invariably persuasive, rather like his playing. He charts an agreeable course on the swaying “Samba Nights” and keeps a firm hand on the rudder until the voyage ends. Goldings, Thompson and Kaumeheiwa are given ample blowing space, which they use to great advantage, while the rhythm section (impelled by Conroy’s resourceful timekeeping) is always on top of its game. There are times, as on “Moonlight in Vermont,” “Be Ooo Ba” or the lovely “Sarlat,” when one is reminded, if only briefly, of such smooth early–bop guitarists as Jimmy Raney, Johnny Smith, Chuck Wayne, Jim Hall and Billy Bauer. Stein, however, doesn’t remain long in one groove, turning up the heat on “Mister Dave” with some crisp and bluesy fretwork, aiming explicitly southward on the swaying bossa “Madelyn,” shadowing Goldings stride for boppish stride on “Sammy” and galloping gracefully through “Rio Con Brio” and “Ben J Man” before further loosening the reins on “Switch–a–Roo.” A tasty soufflé, well–done but not overcooked.

Contact:Jardis Records, D–66583 Spiesen–Elversberg, Schubertstrasse 12, Germany. Web site, www.jardis.de

Track Listing: Samba Nights; Moonlight in Vermont; Be Ooo Ba; Sarlat; Mister Dave; Madelyn; Sammy; Rio Con Brio; Ben J Man; Switch

Personnel: John Stein, guitar; Larry Goldings, piano, Hammond B3 organ; Bill Thompson, alto, tenor sax, flute; Keala Kaumeheiwa, bass; Greg Conroy, drums, percussion.

| Record Label: Jardis Music | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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