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John Stein: Color Tones- “Sharp and lively rhythms with a Latin-Caribbean flavor”

John Stien: Color Tones

By; Jack Bowers- August 2, 2017

On Color Tones, his ninth album for Boston’s Whaling City Sound label, Kanas City-bred guitarist John Stein has chosen a quintet whose front line includes trumpeter Phil Grenadier and flute specialistFernando Brandao. All tones considered, it’s a splendid idea, as Grenadier and Brandao blend well with Stein’s lucent, well-groomed guitar, while bassist John Lockwood and drummer Ze Eduardo Nazzario comprise a snug and unflappable rhythm section. Even though everyone in the ensemble is a talented soloist, the emphasis for the most part is on sharp and lively rhythms, more often than not with a Latin / Caribbean flavor. Exceptions are the shapely ballad “Jo Ann,” written by Stein for his mother, and the leisurely “Salt Marsh Down.” Stein penned every number save the Matt Dennis / Earl Brent standard “Angel Eyes,” whose likeable mid-tempo reading is introduced by Nazario’s drums and enhanced by Brandao’s nimble flute solo. Stein’s modest, plain-spoken compositions set the rhythmic compass and serve as a durable launching pad for the soloists. Although Stein is the nominal leader, Color Tones is by any measure a group effort, with Grenadier and Brandao given ample room to extemporize (and accentuate the various melodies) while Lockwood and Nazario are indispensable allies in the trenches. A splendid quintet date with much to offer the perceptive listener.

John Stein: Color Tones

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All About Jazz Reviews: Dave Liebman Group “Expansions Live”

All About Jazz Reviews: Dave Liebman Group “Expansions Live”
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For those that know soprano saxophonist David Liebman‘s latest group Expansions from their first two studio albums,Samsara and The Puzzle, the double CD Expansions Live will be the lodestone for this quintet (Liebman, reedmanMatt Vashlishan, keyboardist Bobby Avey, bassist Tony Marinoand drummer Alex Ritz).

Playing a few of the tunes from the earlier albums (“Continues To Ignore,” “Vendetta,” “Good Bait” and “Dans de la Fureur” from The Puzzle and “Ugly Beauty” and “Liberian Hummingbird” from Samsara) as well as new material (including old and new standards), the quintet tears through an acoustic set and an electric set, leaving nothing behind.

For those that do not know Liebman in general or this group specifically, Expansions Liveis a fine place to start. As Liebman explains in the notes, special things many times happen at a gig as opposed to the studio, and a recording of a live performance is the next best thing to being there. As was evident from the first notes of Samsara, the elder statesman Liebman had connected with three young, but extraordinary musicians (Marino has played with him for more than twenty years), who bring their own fresh aesthetics to the music, as well being ready, willing and able to imbibe the lessons of what Liebman teaches with every note he plays.

The acoustic set has been pieced together from two gigs about a week apart, and contains material composed by Liebman and Avey as well as Miles Davis‘ “All Blues,” “Good Bait” by Tadd Dameron and Count Basie and a fantastic, thirteen-minute rendition of John Coltrane‘s “India.”

Liebman has a sound (on whatever instrument) and a way of phrasing that makes him immediately recognizable, even on the electric set, (Avey moves to electric keyboard and Marino to electric bass) which has quite a different, much more atmospheric vibe (and sound, with a lot of echo/reverb added) than the acoustic set, which could be called “straight-ahead Liebman.” Wayne Shorter‘s “Footprints” and Thelonious Monk‘s “Ugly Beauty” are marvelous and rival the other set’s “India.” “Love Me Tender” seems to come out of nowhere, and the harmonic treatment given this well- known tune is shockingly funny.

This is top notch jazz, played by old, and young masters -outstanding!

Track Listing: Disc 1: Introduction; JJ; Continues To Ignor; All Blues; Vendetta; Good Bait; Selim; India; Disc 2: Surreality; The Moors; Footprints; Ugly Beauty; Liberian Hummingbird; Love Me Tender; Danse De La Fureur.Personnel: Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone, C flute; Matt Vashlishan: alto saxophone, clarinet, C flute; Bobby Avey: piano, keyboard; Tony Marino: acoustic bass, electric bass; Alex Ritz: drums, frame drum.

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