Virtually all of the last decade, reviews of works by American guitarist John Stein came to our attention, thanks to the company Mixed Media. By the way, these recordings all came out on the label Whaling City Sound record label. Those who listened to Stein’s previous work, or at least read the reviews on them on jazzquad.ru, could get a fairly complete picture of this outstanding musician and come to at least two conclusions. First: John Stein is one of the best guitarists of the modern jazz mainstream, somewhat reminiscent of the manner of the outstanding master Jim Hall. Second: Stein loves Brazilian jazz, including in almost every album a few tunes or, as is the case with the Concerto International de Jazz (2006), an entire recording flavored by Brazilian music.
If the first conclusion is fully supported by his new work, the second does not fit. Stein’s new project is called Emotion, and for the first time in his career, without abandoning his interest in Latin music, he has turned his attention not to Brazil, but to the country lying farther south – Argentina. In place of bossa nova comes tango, and next to Stein’s name there appears on the cover of the album another name: The Mingotan Project.
This name has a very interesting story. Argentine drummer Matias Mingote German in recent years has lived in Spain, but the music of his native country remains at the center of his creative interests. It was he who originated the idea of The Mingotan Project, derived from a combination of his second name, Mingote, and his favorite music, the tango. In the liner notes, John Thomas writes that Stein and German discovered each other through on the internet, and through their collaboration the album Emotion was born.
The recording includes a quintet of musicians: Stein on guitar, German on drums, along with Stein’s virtuosic bassist, John Lockwood, who is from South African but has lived in the U.S. for a long time, flutist Rebecca Kleinman, and accordionist Evan Harlan. Six songs for this project are Stein compositions, one is by German, and the remaining three are covers of standard tunes, among which is the very famous piece by Astor Piazolla, Oblivion. But even the invisible presence of the tango nuevo father does not stop the album as a whole from remaining within the context of jazz, albeit with the prefix “ethno”. In this music, Stein, in beautiful ballads such as Empanadas or Recoleta, pours tart flavors of passionate Argentinean danceable rhythms, but his jazz improvisational basis remains unchanged. Stein is a subtle master of balance, and this project has not changed my feelings for his music. He weaves lacy sounds into every song, merging his guitar with the voices of Kleinman’s flute and Harlan’s accordion. There are outstanding solos throughout: Lockwood’s, for example, on the standard I Thought About You, and polyrhythmic percussion of Matias Mingote German provides spice, without which the most delicious dish would seem bland.
Summary: this look at jazz tango is undoubtedly a great success, and John Stein has opened for himself a new direction.
© & (p) 2014 Whaling City Sound
10 tks / 53 mins
(John Stein – g; Matias Mingote German – dr; Rebecca Kleinmann – fl; Evan Harlan – acc; John Lockwood – b 😉
Disc granted Mixed Media
Jazz Chart: February 24, 2014