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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Loren Stillman - Trio Alto Vol. 1 (Steeplechase, 2006) ***

Loren Stillman is a great sax-player with a powerful yet warm tone. On this album he is accompanied by Steve LaSpina on bass and Jeff Hirshfield on drums. The trio takes on a number of standards such as "All The Things You Are", "Body and Soul", "What Is This Thing Called Love?" amongst others, but then not in the umpteenth version drained from all lifeblood, but in a very novel fashion, first reduced to their harmonic essence and then rebuilt and touched upon through sustained improvisation. In this manner the version of "All The Things You Are" is in the best free jazz tradition barely recognisable at the beginning (like in former days free performance mode "guess what tune I'm playing now!"). It's only after seven minutes into the solo that the melody is recognisable. Yet this is not free jazz, but modern contemporary jazz that is accessible without having to fall back on familiar melodic structure. Stillman's great strength is that he focuses his solos wells and that he brings the music with depth, and this makes listening an exciting experience. This is not background music. And Stillman is not alone of course : with Hirshfield and LaSpina the trio forms a perfect band for a creative, enthusiastic, great album. Jazz with soul!