Earlier this year I reviewed Loren Stillman's Trio Alto Vol. 1, and I wrote that I looked forward to the second volume, and here it is, but it's another trio, this time with John Hebert on bass and Take Toriyama on drums. And it's even better. The trio plays hard, sensitive, tight, open, structured, free, ... not easy to classify, but fun from beginning to end. The musicians are excellent : Stillman's tone is warm and rich, and his improvizations are absolutely great and inventive : he goes on without ever loosing sight of the basic melody, without needing to abandon the clarity of his tone to keep the attention going. But his calm and restraint are nicely balanced with the power of the rhythm section. Toriyama on drums is really strong, hard-hitting (real hard at times!), energetic and creative, and Herbert holds the center, keeping the core melody, but often reacting extremely well to Stillman's improvizational excursions. The music is well-structured, controlled, but real free. A great balance. A great album.
Loren Stillman - Blind Date (Pirouette, 2007) ***
And then Stillman releases yet another album, this time with a different musical concept, more mainstream, with Gary Versace on piano, Drew Gress on bass and Joey Baron on drums. His tone is still the same, but the overall atmosphere is lighter, more accessible, his playing is more frivolous, joyful, dancing, intimate, ... as you would expect from a blind date. The compositions are of course much tighter, more complex, with much less room for improvisation. Of course, the musicianship is among the best you can get, but there is less adventure, and in the end, also less memorable, at least to me. For fans of post-bop and mainstream, this record will be a treat.
Listen and download drom eMusic.com.