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.