Drummer Bill Stewart has made a name for himself with John Scofield’s band on several excellent recordings including What We Do and Hand Jive,. He has also made great contributions to sessions with Joe Lovano, Marty Ehrlich and Maceo Parker. If it sounds to you like he has great range as a drummer, you’re right. Stewart combines the polyrhythmic inventiveness of modern drumming with the taste and groove of funk. He creates fire and drive without volume, always supporting and creating, but never overpowering.
Telepathy is his second date as a leader and it offers further evidence of his talents as both instrumentalist and composer. Stewart’s compositions range from aggressive to introspective and he has chosen a superb roster of musicians to assist him in his musical expression. Saxophonists Steve Wilson (alto and soprano) and Seamus Blake (tenor) are also coming into their own as great improvisers and their ideas and interplay are constantly engaging. Pianist Bill Carrothers is less well-known but is featured prominently and his imaginative harmonic sense invites close listening and the hope that he will appear more often on disc. Larry Grenadier’s bass work is superb. On one of your listens to this disc, focus on his bassistic creations. Great stuff!
Of the nine tunes on this disc only two are from the jazz canon. Jackie McLean’s "Little Melonae" and Monk’s "Rhythm-A-Ning" are given fresh treatments with Blake blazing through the Monk accompanied only by Stewart and Carrothers, while only the rhythm section is spotlighted on McLean’s great tune. The remaining tunes were penned by the leader. Stewart’s compositions range from angular and aggressive to dark and moody. Try to keep from smiling as Blake squawks and struts on "Happy Chickens." Blake and Wilson get into a wildly raucous mood on "Fano," exchanging ideas and honks, followed by some intensely creative statements from Grenadier and Stewart. "Calm" is a beautiful ballad feature for Carrothers, with the leader painting soft colors with brushes. Stewart proves to be as imaginative in his writing as in his drumming.
This is a rewarding disc, straight from the jazz tradition but consistently original and forward-looking.