Bill Stewart Trio: Band Menu

Rating: ★★★

Record and Artist Details

Musicians:

Larry Grenadier (b)
Walter Smith III (ts)
Bill Stewart (d)

Label:

self-released

Feb/2019

RecordDate:

26-27 February 2018

Sonny Rollins’ trio albums remain the gold standard for sax and rhythm trios, and there are hints of the colossus’s peppery undertow and subtle sense of time in tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III’s playing here. The agreeably named ‘F U Donald’ finds Smith III articulating strongly on a funky theme and later flowing melodically over fast walking-bass swing on ‘Good Goat’ and ‘Think Before You Think’, the album’s final track. But the airy tone, light articulation and across-the-pulse phrasing are Smith III’s own creation and in the rhythm section other inspirations come into play. Drummer Bill Stewart’s mix of elliptic pulse and funky drive reflect the contradictory influences of Paul Motian and time spent with John Scofield, Larry Goldings and Maceo Parker. The former strand is at its clearest on the opening title-track and the winsome cover of the Bill Evans ballad ‘Re: Person I Knew’. The solid grooves emerge on the New Orleans back-beats of ‘Hair and Teeth’ and the choppy pulse of ‘Modren’. Continuity comes from bassist Larry Grenadier’s woody counterpoint and strong walking lines, the leader’s tailor-made compositions and the way in which the trio gel as a unit. They expand underlying harmonies without stating the obvious and are at their best when the pulse is understated. Thus, Smith III is lyrical, pensive and at one with Grenadier’s figured bass on ‘Invocation’ and flows intensely over the leader’s loose-skinned rolls and cymbal splashes on ‘Apollo’.

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