John Stein: Lifeline

Editor's Choice

Rating: ★★★★

Record and Artist Details


Rebecca Kleinman (fl)
Phil Grenadier (t)
Evan Harlan (acc)
Keala Kaumeheiwa (b)
Mike Connors (d)
Koichi Sato (kbd)
Larry Goldings (p)
Pedro Ito (perc)
Daniel Grajew (kbd)
Jake Sherman (kbd)
Alexandre Zamith (p)
Ron Gill (v)
Dave Zinno (b)
Yoron Israel (d)
Fernando Brandão (fl)
John Lockwood (b)
Zé Eduardo Nazario (d)
John Stein (g)
Ed Lucie (b-g)
David ‘Fathead’ Newman (as, fl)
Greg Conroy (d)
Dave Hurst (d)
Frank Herzberg (b)
Ken Clark (org)
Matias Mingote German (d)


Whaling City Sound


Media Format:

2 CD

Catalogue Number:



Rec. 1999–2021

We reviewed Kansas City guitarist Stein's Whaling City Serendipity CD favourably in our October 2021 issue, while admitting that his was a new name to us. That album was timed to coincide with his retirement from a long-term professorial role at Berklee and marked his desire to get back into full-time jazz performance. Then came lockdown. Although hardly known over here, Stein had recorded regularly for the New Bedford-based label for over 20 years, this new double album a celebration of that association with tracks culled from his 15 albums for them.

Neatly packaged in a glossy fold-over digipack, it's a welcome rundown of his music for the label. The opening track ‘Up and At ‘Em’ is a gem, Newman surprisingly fleet on alto, well away from his usual bluesy tenor manner, Stein commendably agile, the effect much like that achieved by Jim Hall and Paul Desmond. One might have wished for more from this 1999-2001 period by what was evidently a working band. ‘Hotcakes’ is livelier, with a neat motif, Newman on flute this time and combining well with Clark's organ lines, this one of the swingier tracks collected here. Otherwise, Stein moves through a variety of settings, his guitar pleasingly articulate and even-mannered, with Brazilian rhythms engaging his attention often, the various sidemen listed buckling down capably.

He's clearly a player of consequence, nearer to Hall than Scofield in sound and style, who might want to look further afield now that he's at liberty. I’d like to hear him in faster company with stronger horns alongside. Why not?

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