Jazz CD Reviews

The Miles Black Trio With Grant Stewart – Cellar Live

A buoyant album filled with bright ideas.

Published on August 10, 2013

The Miles Black Trio With Grant Stewart – Cellar Live CLO 41313, 71:07 ****:

(Miles Black – piano; Grant Stewart – tenor saxophone; André Lachance – acoustic bass; Julian Macdonough – drums)

Miles Black is a pianist who is primarily based in Vancouver, British Columbia, although he has played and travelled internationally with the likes of Paul Horn. On the other hand, Grant Stewart who was originally born in Toronto, Ontario, moved full time to New York City in 1990 where he studied, worked, and built his reputation. In April 2013 these two musicians recorded a live date for Cellar Live at Cory Weed’s Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver BC with sparkling results.

The set list that the band ran through on this session covered the panoply of compositional origins, styles, and structures, including two from pianist Black, all of which were for the most part effective as the frame to develop improvisational ideas. Miles Black is a confident pianist with a strong right hand and uses his left hand mostly for filling in chords. However his improvisations are not always terribly inventive, he frequently uses interjections of quotations from other compositions, and more often than not falls into using block chords from the Red Garland school of piano playing. With regard to Grant Stewart noted jazz writer Marc Myers in his blog JazzWax dated December 07, 2012 says the following about Stewart: “He has a huge sound, he’s nimble, and he knows when to turn on the speed, and he loves showing off on standards.” Each of these traits is demonstrated in this live recording.

The three tunes that stem from American popular songs are “Who Can I Turn To”,” Everything Happens To Me,” and “I Had The Craziest Dream,” and all done at slightly different tempos giving the band ample room to demonstrate their flexibility and that they are an approachable quartet. Clearly Stewart is the lead voice and offers a firm attitude to this standard songbook. Black shows a solid technique and is a positive partner for Stewart. The Dizzy Gillespie offering “Woody’n You” begins in a Latin cadence with drummer Macdonough setting the pace and then segues into an up-tempo swinger. Stewart shows he is a saxophonist of intense enthusiasm and although he does get a little ahead of himself about halfway through, he recovers nicely. Black has a strong solo supported by bassist Lachance’s ever-present walking bass-line throughout.

Perhaps the two most interesting tracks of the session are Jackie McLean’s “Little Melonae” a Miles Davis favorite of the mid-‘50s, and Tadd Dameron’s “Super Jet”. On the former, Stewart is particularly forceful with long looping lines and then Black enters the conversation with some solid ideas before the band takes the tune out. On the latter, which is done at a tempo that fits the tune’s name, Stewart is in full control spinning out ideas in a powerful style. Then Black comes in defining his own path, followed by some scintillating breaks from drummer Macdonough, with Stewart then blowing the final chorus. This is a buoyant album filled with bright ideas.

TrackList: Who Can I Turn To; Carving The Rock; Everything Happens To Me; Woody’n You; Olivia; Thingy; I Had The Craziest Dream; Little Melonae; Super Jet

—Pierre Giroux

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