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.
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Triple threat: truly excellent compositions, arrangements, and world class playing.
Acclaimed guitarist John Stein expands his already impressive sonic palette on his new recording, Color Tones. The new album, created with his ever-intriguing core rhythm section—longtime drummer Zé Eduardo Nazario and renown bass player John Lockwood—has also added the voices of two hyper-original soloists, Fernando Brandão on flutes or well-regarded trumpeter Phil Grenadier out of Boston. All of Stein’s accompanists here expertly carve out their territory. Songs like the concise “Neck Road,” perhaps the best example of how this collective functions, features all five instrumentalists intertwining in respectful but bristling ways. And in true Stein fashion, the musicians here complement their bandleader tastily, providing a firm and steady foundation for all the fun that happens on top. Stein’s colleagues also recognize and appreciate the freedom that goes along with playing in an open-minded setting.
Stein creates with both composition and structure, and he can color in the details of those structures artfully. But even though the format feels traditional on the surface, there are still surprises hiding underneath. In fact, Color Tones is a true delight, with excellent compositions, sublime arrangements and enthralling musicianship. Isn’t that all we require from a jazz recording?