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Nine Open Questions

Nine Open Questions

  • By Tim Stevens
  • Release 29/04/2008
  • Music Genre Jazz
  • Media Format CD
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Price: £23.46

Product Notes

Tim Stevens Trio: Nine Open Questions (Rufus Records RF068) 'Recorded in March 2004 at the ABC's Melbourne Studios for the Jazztrack program, this CD is dedicated to Jim McLeod, recently retired from his longstanding role as the preeminent national jazz broadcaster. This is an impressive trio, led by the pianist Tim Stevens (now at the Victorian College of the Arts), who has contributed all nine compositions, but within a context where Ben Robertson (bass) and Dave Beck (drums) carry equal responsibilities with the pianist for the ensemble. This they all do with high skill and impeccable good taste. Stevens is a disciplined, accomplished pianist with a touch shaped by the impressionistic, introspective tradition introduced to jazz piano by Bill Evans, Robertson has a lovely sound, coupled with a strong melodic sense and accurate intonation and Beck is a sympathetic drummer, with complete control of every aspect of his kit and equally interesting whether using sticks or brushes. It is a pleasure to listen to such a well rehearsed unit wherein each player is so well tuned to the others. 'The music is challenging because none of the material is familiar and it is, moreover, characterised by pulse and structural irregularities that tease and bemuse. Those so inclined will have fun trying to decode the form for 'The Unmistaken' (irregular sections of 11 and 7 bars) or 'Commuted' (bars of 5, 6, and 7 beats interspersed with bars of 4 and 3). Similar to Brad Mehldau's extension to the rhythmic interest of a style that extends from Bill Evans through Keith Jarrett, Tim Stevens explores many different ways to develop his forms beyond the traditional duple or triple pulses within regular 8-bar sequences. The trio handles 5/4 so smoothly and naturally (Stops on the road to smooth) that one is scarcely aware of the time signature, unlike experiences with pioneer attempts to break away from ubiquitous duple and triple measures (e.g. Brubeck's Time Out album). In fact, even familiar time signatures are stretched by the clever application of displaced syncopations that capture attention, while shifting the accents within the composition in unexpected ways, so that apparently new directions frequently surprise the listener. 'Repeated listening will extend the pleasure derived from this CD. It is a worthy tribute to a man who, in a long, distinguished broadcasting career, stayed abreast of the many stylistic directions that jazz has taken but also did so much to promote Australian jazz. And Tim Dunn (Executive Producer, Rufus Records) is to be congratulated for continuing to support talented Australian exponents of an improvised art form that sometimes struggles to gain the audience that those committed to it believe it deserves.' (Ted Nettelbeck, Music Forum February-April 2005) 'GIVEN the quiet suggestiveness of Tim Stevens's music and the feeling that he's never one to force an idea into premature existence, it's fitting that the title of this recording refers to his nine compositions as 'open questions'. A young Melbourne based pianist, Stevens has made a name for himself over the past few years as a thoughtful, reflective musician with a commanding approach to composition, harmony and space. His improvisations never sound formulaic but emerge seamlessly from melodies, full of subtle lyricism and unpredictability. This CD, with Ben Robertson on bass and Dave Beck on drums, reminds me of ECM pianist John Taylor in the way Stevens floats around the beat with a soft touch on the keys. And, like all great recordings, it only gets better with every listen.' (Ashleigh Wilson, The Weekend Australian 11-12 December 2004) Even in a country so richly endowed with superior jazz pianists, Tim Stevens is one of those at the very top of the pile. The title of this new album, Nine Open Questions, says much about the attitude implicit in his music-making: the nine compositions do not have a 'right' way of being played; they are 'open' to the input of bassist Ben Robertson and drummer Dave Beck, and the reinterpretation of Stevens himself, the composer. Yes, this is the point of all jazz composition, but ego often obstructs the path like a fallen tree, tripping up the best of intentions in cart wheeling displays of technique and in the imposition of the leader/composer's will. A pivotal aspect of the beauty in Stevens' playing is the humility. His sole preoccupation is communication, in which impressing the listener has no part. This was evident in the precursors to this trio: firstly Browne, Haywood, Stevens, and then the pianist's shortlived Sydney band with Simon Barker and Mark Lau. (Stevens moved back to Melbourne in 2002.) Current drummer Dave Beck was an unexpected collaborator for Stevens to choose, given his occasional propensity to play the drums rather than the music. Here, however, his gifts for musicality and crisp precision are to the fore in an entirely sympathetic contribution. Ben Robertson's bass playing is lavishly melodic, contrasting with the leader's slightly more austere and intense style of lyricism. The compositions have been thoughtfully crafted to promote different aspects of the trio's music, without straying too far from the watercolour shades, delicacy, pensiveness and swing that are it's natural habitat. Beautiful. (John Shand, Limelight January 2005) The piano trio format is a timeless jazz fixture for the simple reason that it offers endless opportunities that belie it's simplicity. Pianist Tim Stevens brings a fresh outlook to this triangular mystery, inspired no doubt by fellow Melburnians Ben Robertson (bass) and Dave Beck (drums), masters at this kind of artistry. If the trio fits comfortably into a venerable tradition, it is only to the extent that it is used for sublime self-expression. Stevens' tunes are supremely melodic, but the magic lies mostly in the pianist's calm yet intense reluctance to spell things out overtly, while a nagging air of wonder pervades every note. A final bonus comes from the bass and drum feature spots, which are taken in an ensemble context, thus blessedly relieving the listener of the sometimes disconcerting lurch of a solo being played solo. (Kenny Weir, Sunday Herald-Sun 31 October 2004)

Details

Artist: Tim Stevens
Title: Nine Open Questions
Genre: Jazz
Release Date: 29/04/2008
Label: CD Baby
Media Format: CD
UPC: 9399033306823
This product is a special order

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