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Rory Stuart Quartet: So Rise Up

Mark F. Turner By

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So Rise Up showcases New York guitarist, Rory Stuart, leading his quartet through original compositions that are simultaneously engrossing and technically sophisticated. Stuart is no novice, with a number of recordings as a leader—his first was Nightwork (Cadence, 1982)—and plenty of previous exposure, with artists from the renowned saxophonist Charlie Rouse and B3 organ guru Dr. Lonnie Smith to up and coming saxophonist John Ellis and drummer Dan Weiss.

This release features Stuart's working quartet of the past few years, a very talented group featuring Mark Shim on tenor saxophone, Ari Hoenig on drums, and Matt Penman on bass. It gives a view of what the guitarist has to offer both performance-wise and compositionally, with a varied mix of forward-looking and absorbing compositions.

You can tell that the band have been playing together for awhile; starting with the dangerous "Experiment #2," a knotty piece that progresses through unusual time signatures, handled deftly by Hoenig and Penman's rhythmic acrobats and Shim and Stuart's tricky unison lines and extended, explorative solos.

This is a very tight unit and although Staurt and Shim are the primary leads, each player gets time plenty of time to shine. Hoenig's percussive statement on "Exhilirate" is memorable, as is his trading fours with Stuart on "Synechdoche In Schenectady," while Penman's probing bass solo on the ballad-like "Falling Angel" is also notable.

The thing to note about Staurt's playing is that it's not just about rapid fire soloing; he takes time to exploit the compositional changes. He is also an outstanding rhythm player, mixing James Brown funk on "Unexpected Path" and intricate chords/soloing on "Lembrancas," a gauchos' open-range piece, with apparent ease. With a full-bodied sound and clean lines his playing is confident but never overstated.

Shim's throaty tenor is one the most identifiable in jazz, with a touch of old-school blues and avant-garde expressions on the opening track. His tonal range might allude to a clarinet at the beginning of "Pensive," but then unfolds into near baritone pitch as Stuart plays a series of progressing chords on one of the recording's most picturesque tracks.

The quartet shakes, rattles, and bops on "The Same Old Same Old," then closes with the Afro-centric title track, on which Stuart shows more of his encyclopedic guitar playing, as the band joins in and spices up the street party carnival feeling. Combining the old and the new, and mixing it up just right, the music in So Rise Up does exactly as its title suggests.

Track Listing: Experiment #2; Exhilirate; Synechdoche In Schenectady; Falling Angel; Unexpected Path; Lembrancas; Pensive; The Same Old Same Old; So Rise Up.

Personnel: Rory Stuart: guitar; Ari Hoenig: drums; Matt Penman: bass; Mark Shim: tenor saxophone.

Title: So Rise Up | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Smart Cat Music

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