Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bill Stewart's New Album Close But Not Quite Incandescent

It goes without saying that whenever you have musicians of the level of Bill Stewart, Larry Goldings, and Kevin Hayes, the music will be of a certain level. Stewart is famous for his work with John Scofield; Goldings for his work as a solo artist and as Hans Groiner. Kevin Hayes, whose work I do not know as well as the work of the other two, is probably my favorite player of the three; his piano playing on "Tell a Televangelist" in particular is full of great ideas, if not ingenious. That said though, there's something missing from "Incandescence," the new album from Bill Stewart as a leader.

The thing that's missing isn't a bass, although there isn't one; the instrumentation on this record is piano, organ, drums. Chris Potter established with "Underground" that is possible to make a modern sounding, electric jazz album without a bass player, and there have been great bass-less saxophone-trio records since Lester Young's group in the thirties. What's missing, rather, is a lot more esoteric, and I can't quite put my finger on it. "Incandescence" is fun, and the playing is good, but with the exception of a couple of tracks it is unmemorable. The tracks, for the most part, bleed together; all are soul-tinged modern jazz compositions with occasional out sections.

That said, the idea of a bass-less trio consisting of a drummer and two keyboardists is interesting, and when it works the band sounds great. "Portals Opening" is a lot like Miles Davis' immortal "Nefertiti;" the drummer plays some incredibly hands-on, rhythmically out stuff while the rest of the band plays a melody (or groove, in this case). Goldings and Hays play with the repeated motif they've been given, of course, and there is more variation in the track than just percussion, but Stewart steals the show on this particular song, working out some complex polyrhythms over the keyboardists' relatively simple pattern. On the aforementioned "Tell a Televangelist," both Hays and Goldings have some interesting things to play, and the groove is insistent enough to be memorable. Not a great record, but not a bad one either, "Incandescence" is worth listening to once; the idea behind it is extremely interesting, and when it works, it works.

Next time I think I'll have a review of Art Pepper's "Unreleased Art, Volume 3," a posthumous release of a concert recorded in 1981.

1 comment:

Ayo said...

I just discovered your blog. But your reviews are very helpful.

I was thinking about purchasing the album since Bill Stewart and Kevin Hays were playing in Jon Gordon's album Within Worlds.

I think I will give it a try.