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Portraits and Landscapes

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Album Review

Variety is the name of the game on Boston-based guitarist John Stein's third trip to the studio. There are sambas, some hard bop, and funk played by a trio or quartet. The only standard on the set is "Moonlight in Vermont," the rest being Stein originals. His basic trio gets some help from Larry Goldings, who is best known as a Hammond B-3 organist of note, but here doubles on piano. His organ turns "Sammy" into the grittiest piece on the session. His long piano solo helps sustain the tension created by the performers on "Switch-a-Roo" and he and Stein play over the percussive beat of Greg Conroy. Then there's Bill Thompson, who triples on tenor, alto sax, and flute. His airy fluting brings a feel of lightness to the Brazilian "Rio Con Brio." And vigorous and brisk it is, as this piece is guaranteed to lure listeners to get up and trip the light fantastic. Stein's way with his axe results in a congenial, clean sound, allowing anyone hearing the music to grasp the message he sends with his music. There is no cluttering the musical portraits and landscapes he has created with unnecessary, smeary chordal devices. He is also imaginative. The coda to "Moonlight in Vermont" is a nice touch as Stein quotes from "Dedicated to You." Regardless of tempo, there is always a feeling of relaxation that permeates the entire CD. No one is in a hurry or out to show that he is among the fastest guns around on his particular instrument. This creates an aura of luxurious enjoyment. With lots of help from his friends, John Stein has turned out another winner with Portraits and Landscapes. Recommended.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

John Stein began his guitar education at the age of seven, showing an early interest in folk and classical music. Stein's eventual absorption with jazz was an evolutionary process rather than the product of a defining moment or two. It wasn't until his teens that he started noticing jazz. The genre completely enveloped him at the age of 30, when he became a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston where he later became...
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Portraits and Landscapes, John Stein
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