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Stephen Roane: Portraits

AAJ Staff By

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This is a sampler, in all senses of the word. In sessions 14 years apart we hear the bassist, in bands from two to six pieces, up front and at the bottom, and displaying a number of styles. Nice tunes, a number of stars, and in all a happy mood. Through these we see Roane, and it’s a pretty picture indeed.

The opener, “Keeping a Secret”, is a drive through downtown. Frank Strozier takes the gentle theme with a confident tone; the piano perks nicely behind him. Frank gets excited on the solo, shooting notes hard with a bit of squeal. Noreen Grey rings a glittering skyline, relaxed but strong. The same describes Roane: rich broad tones with a slower approach than many. It fits the track like the splashy cymbals, and when Strozier returns, you’ll want everyone to know the secret.

“Variations on Blue and Green” is a mystery. If a tribute to Bill Evans or “Blue in Green”, the music doesn’t show it. Richie Beirach is bright with high chords, a cocktail tone with intellect. Roane is loud on his turn: fingers stretch and strings snap, to great effect. It’s lovely, even if we don’t know what’s varied. “Never Too Tight” is edgy and swingin’ – four horns, no piano. It’s like a simpler version of Duane Tatro, with a greater jazz feeling. Carmen Leggio has a great turn on alto: twisting, restless, and far too short. Eddie Bert also makes impact, but the tune is the focus: sly, memorable, and a quote of “Intimacy of the Blues”. Tight? I’ll say.

“Outside the Village” is a little crowded: there’s Roane on guitar, and two horns loud enough to drown the pretty flute of Ed Xiques. Richard Grando honks hard, strutting before two Roanes (bass and dubbed guitar.) Bert sounds distant, a mellow voice whooping it high. (He’s better in the light background than Grando was.) And honors go to Xiques: full and low, with a metallic sparkle to the notes. The parts surpass the whole, but it’s still worth a listen. From swirling to still: the next three are nicely varied duets...

“When Silence Rings” has spare guitar from Bill Connors (a hint of flamenco, but not its intensity) and Roane comes in with a similar tone. Connors trills; Roane rumbles – the sound of passing clouds. “Brook Dancing” has heady slides from Roane; a bit exotic, and here the table enters. Roane gets tough with heavy vibrato; Colin Walcott picks up the beat, at times sounding like a bongo. Other tunes are better, but this is the nicest performance — it makes me feel wonderful. Nearly as good is “Our Son”, with Roane as the rhythm section (guitar – bass – shakers) and Grando showing gentle strength. He tried the same thing on “Village, but here it works better. The guitar gets a solo (simple but effective), and the bass shines from beneath – the same solo, played lower. The dubs are a wonder, and prepare us for the groups’ return.

“Truffaut Afternoon” brings us Grey, and she is wonderfully lush. Grando is mellow ... but a loud mellow! It’s the same mood as “Secret”, but slower: again Grey is marvelous. “With Bordeaux” has another one-man-band part by Roane, and three graceful horns. Xiques flows free, in his best turn. A good guitar bit from Roane, and the horns return, stronger than before. Grando is decent; Bert is calm and authoritative – lovely. It’s all “Village” should have been – and this album is all a self-portrait should be.


Title: Portraits | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Mothlight Music

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