Jazz

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Eric My­ers

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.

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