With Whom You Can Be Who You Are Tim Stevens Double Trio Rufus Records This impressive album from Melbourne’s Tim Stevens is inspired by friendship. Seven compositions are named by the initials of “dear friends”, most of whom are scattered around the world. The jazz trio, including Stevens (piano), Marty Holoubek (bass) and Tony Floyd (drums), is augmented by a trio of string players: Madeleine Jevons (violin, voice), Phoebe Green (viola) and Naomi Wileman (cello). The music here underlines Stevens’s main quality as a pianist/composer, which has been evident since he emerged as a fledgling performer more than 20 years ago: the gift of melodic beauty. The string trio, playing scored parts, provides throughout a refreshing contrast to the improvisatory talents of the three jazz musicians. I do not hear in Stevens’s music the freewheeling spirit of the blues, nor bebop, nor the romanticism of Bill Evans. Rather, I hear a disciplined refinement redolent of classical music, with extraordinary attention to detail. The album is a flight of the imagination certainly, but it appears to be on the wings of Johann Sebastian Bach. At times I felt I was experiencing the ambience of the famous trio led by French pianist Jacques Loussier, who built a career on converting Bach compositions to jazz vehicles. The influence in jazz of Bach, a prolific keyboard improviser of the early 18th century, is no bad thing. In Stevens’s music I sense a private, reflective musical personality rather than a gregarious one. The mood is pensive, if not melancholic, with a yearning spirit in the music that is moving and life-affirming. When his improvisations wind up, he can really make the piano sing, and the fugue-like writing for strings, while clearly experimental, is full of interest.