Most jazz pianists with classical training in their backgrounds seem to feel the pull of of the strings: whether it be Bill Evans with his Bill Evans Trio With Symphony Orchestra Verve, 1965); Phineas Newborn, Jr. on While My Lady Sleeps (Bluebird/RCA, 1957); or, to bring it into the new millennium: Brad Mehldau's Highway Rider (Nonesuch, 2010); and Danny Green's Danny Green Trio Plus Strings (OA2 Records, 2018).
Australian pianist Tim Stevensbest known perhaps for his work with his "improvisation trio"tries his hands at the "with strings" format with With Whom You Can Be With Who You Are. The album features his Double Trioa standard jazz piano trio joined by three string playersviolin, viola and cello.
The music is an egalitarian affair. At times it leans more toward the jazz-side of soundthe disc's opener, the jaunty "a.o." that introduces the disc with a marvelous, multifaceted, minute long drum solo by Tony Floydat others the mood draws more from a classical chamber jazz approach: the gracefully swooping "m.b."
The compositions (Stevens calls them movements), all originals, are named with the initials of what Stevens' describes as "dear friends of mine," people "with whom you can be who you are." Crafting a sound to capture the essence of individual human beings is certainly a tricky business. Stevens has, befittingly, created seven complex, multidimensional, compelling and purely beautiful movements, a suite celebrating the bright side of the human soul.
Stevens is a master improviser who solos with, by turns, eloquence and energy, with an introspective elan and a reverent, touching tenderness. His arrangements exploit the strings to perfectionthe players are animated with an assured intensity and a joyous panache.
Those individuals Tim Stevens nods to with this music must be wonderful people. This gorgeous and irresistable music says so.
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