This seems like a good time to post the review of Loren Stillman's most recent CD. He's definitely a bit of a Konitz-man, so I get to keep my theme going for a bit longer.
Time also to plug a new blog from Canada, Lift The Bandstand, launched this week. It aims to look at music from the musician's perspective and get into areas of musical philosophy, as well as posting reviews and the occasional rant. Still in its infancy, but a promising start so far...
Trio Alto Volume One
Steeplechase (SCCD 31604)
Long Ago And Far Away; Turn Out The Stars; Red Cross; The State Of The World; All The Things You Are; Time Remembered; What Is This Thing Called Love; Body & Soul; The Touch Of Your Lips.
Loren Stillman (as); Steve LaSpina (b); Jeff Hirshfield (d).
Recorded April 2005.
London born saxophonist Loren Stillman, still in only his 27th year, has been bubbling under for almost a decade now. Raised across the Atlantic, Stillman has already won prizes galore, made a string of acclaimed recordings for Soul Note, Fresh Sounds and Nagel Heyer, and studied with notables including Lee Konitz, Dave Liebman and Ted Nash. Something of all of these players comes through on this album, though it is the wispy, pure tone and wily intellect that betray Konitz as the obvious mentor.
In taking such a direct line back to the melodic tradition of jazz improvisation on the one hand, Stillman intriguingly breaches form and structure on the other, making Anthony Ortega another point of reference. For Volume One of what I hope will be a series as large as Brad Mehldau’s, the flexible team of Steve LaSpina and Jeff Hirshfield are the saxophonist’s band-mates, never once missing the presence of a harmony instrument. As for the material, the inclusion of two Bill Evans compositions leaves no doubt that Stillman is a man in love with melody.
A smattering of ‘warhorse’ standards is not as dry a proposition as you might expect, and the way in which the saxophonist toys with each tune shows a very mature player indeed. Stillman’s approach to ‘Body & Soul’ is a useful litmus test by which to measure his credentials - more abstract yet essentially just as melodic as Hawkins’ 1939 monument, he follows the piece’s contours, and despite taking generous liberties he never leaves any doubt as to the material at hand.
Such an approach is of course second nature to Stillman’s generation, and this is very much jazz of today. Yet unlike Dave Binney or Rudresh Mahanthappa, to name two near contemporaries, Stillman very much upholds the traditional sounds of the mainstream. This music is as exciting as it is cerebral - try comparing ‘Red Cross’ to one of the Evans ballads - and the ‘live’ in the studio vocal encouragements preserved in this warmly detailed mix speak of the trio’s pleasure in their work. If you think that nobody needs another version of ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’, prepare to eat your words when you hear the emphatic version delivered here.
Overall it is probably the elliptical ballads that predominate, and in closing with ‘The Touch Of Your Lips’, Stillman opts for a far from conventional way of signing off. Volume Two is now anticipated with some relish…
(Jazz Review, May 2007)