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[Off The Record]
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John Stein
PORTRAITS AND LANDSCAPES
(Jardis)

Guitarist Stein works familiar territory, but if his sambas, hard boppers, and boogaloos feel fresher than most, thatís because he knows how to invest every form he touches with personally felt detail. In part, he does it with original tunes. The only " cover " here is " Moonlight in Vermont, " but each of Steinís nine pieces comes with its own hook ó a lyric melody line, a rhythmic fillip. The driving bop " Mr. Dave " and the funky organ trio " Sammy " have classic verse-chorus turn-arounds that make them readymade standards. Stein also knows how to program, mixing trio and quartet tracks as well as styles with " guests " Billy Thompson and Larry Goldings. Thompson gives alto and tenor edge to the bop and funk side of things but also lifts a couple of tunes with his lyrical flute playing. Goldings has been earning a name as a Hammond-B3 specialist, but here he often plays piano, showing just as individual a feel with his fleet extended lines.

And then thereís Stein himself. Like the rest of the band, he knows how to turn a phrase a notch or two to the left of your expectations. Itís in the way heíll single out a repeated note for an extra bit of bite in his attack, contrast a light singing upper register with a deep, brass bottom, or ornament a line with triplets you might not even catch until a second or third listen. Or the way in the soul-funk line of " Switch-a-roo " heíll drop the last note of the phrase that extra step or two and let it hang there, booming.

(The John Stein Trio, with Keala Kaumeheiwa and Greg Conroy, plays at Ryles this Friday, March 16. Call 876-9330.)

BY JON GARELICK

Issue Date: March 15 - 22, 2001





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