Stream of Consciousness
1. Flight of the Eagle2. Everything I Love
3. Wild Flower
8. Infant Eyes
9. While We're Young
10. The Song is You
Jay Thomas (flugel horn and tenor sax); John Stowell (guitar); Chuck Kistler(bass); Adam Kessler (drums);
Recorded, mixed, edited by Greg Williamson and Pony Boy Studios 2007. Produced by Jay Thomas and John Stowell
Cover design by Pony Boy Records www.ponyboyrecords.com
Seattle Times Review:
Duo makes for superb listening experience
By Paul de Barros - Seattle Times - jazz critic
"It just kind of happened at a rehearsal at Jay's house," said Portland guitarist John Stowell, when asked about the wonderfully relaxed, dual-solo style on his new CD with Seattle trumpeter and saxophonist Jay Thomas. "I really love that conversational approach," Stowell said. "In some ways, it's like that West Coast jazz, Gerry Mulligan thing, but it has a little sharper edge."
Stowell and Thomas celebrate the release of their new album "Streams of Consciousness" (Pony Boy) with the rhythm section on the album — Chuck Kistler (bass) and Adam Kessler (drums) — at 8:30 tonight at Tula's ($12; 206-443-4221 or www.tulas.com).
"Streams of Consciousness" is flat-out marvelous, not only relaxed and conversational, but deft, witty and warm.
Blessed with a light touch, it has none of the self-consciousness of some of those old West Coast jazz records, when you sometimes felt like the music was saying, "Hey, look at the cool counterpoint and harmony we just pulled off."
The songs — a mix of standards and gems by Billy Strayhorn and Wayne Shorter — are fetchingly melodic; solos are short and to the point, and the interaction between these two phrase-masters sounds absolutely natural.
I especially enjoyed Strayhorn's haunting ballad "Isfahan," which opens with Thomas' buttery trumpet tumbling down the opening line. On "Everything I Love," you can almost hear the "words" to the musical conversation Stowell and Thomas are having as they signify on each other, sometimes overlapping, sometimes weaving around the same melodic material simultaneously.
When he plays tenor saxophone, Thomas sounds a lot like Joe Henderson, with a breathy sound, softly crying attack and harmonically sophisticated left turns.
Thomas plays locally all the time, Stowell less so, so this is a welcome, long-overdue collaboration, indeed.
Stowell, 56, has been on the Northwest scene since the '70s, when he moved from New York to Portland and began a seven-year duo collaboration with bass virtuoso David Friesen. Since then, Stowell has played mostly on the West Coast, touring seven or eight months a year, teaching as he goes.
Highly regarded by musicians, he's a longtime clinician at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, has written an instruction book for one of the top music publishers (Mel Bay) and has appeared with Friesen at the San Jose Jazz Festival.
The German luthier Hofner named a semihollow-body electric guitar after Stowell — the "Very Thin JS" — the one he plays on this album.
Stowell's sound has a quiet glow — he used to play with even more reverb — so it's no surprise he counts the great Jim Hall as an early influence. But Stowell's fast, too, and not just in the lickety-split Pat Martino way, but with odd leaps and weird, oblique scales. He's always been his own man, using a small pick and fingertips together to create a gently orchestral, call-and-answer sound.
His harmonic knowledge is encyclopedic. I left one of his clinics thinking it would take five lifetimes to practice everything he had mentioned. In Stowell's early days, all that knowledge and heavy reverb sometimes made for solos that were a bit notey and floaty. Today, he's a truly grounded, mature player and should be much better known.
"That's always been my challenge as a player," said Stowell. "What I'm trying to do is find a balance between obliqueness and emotion. And lately, what I've been trying to do is develop a more melodic concept. I always tell students to listen to singers."
I say listen to Stowell.
Flight of the Eagle is by the late great baritone sax player Nick Brignola. Chuck Kistler brought it in and it goes between a very spacey floating feel anda lush bossa nova.
Everything I Love is a Cole Porter tune with some nice meaty changes. John and I play simultaneously throughout the tune weaving in and out together, often intuitively taking over where the other left off.
Wild flower is by Wayne shorter...we changed the rhythm to an African 6/8 groove. This song has a complex and interesting set of changes to blow on, and with this 6/8 treatment lends itself well to rhythmic layering.
Isfahon has an attractive key change at the halfway mark that provides a nice change and lift without really altering the song as Strayhorn envisioned it.
UMMG is another Strayhorn song with an angular melody and great changes. We play it medium up-tempo and it features some straight ahead blowing by the Quartet.
Ambleside is a composition by English piano player John Taylor. This is a fresh sounding waltz with a lot of four over three in the melody. The vibe of this song creates the opportunity for the kind of intimate interplay the quartet likes to perform.
While We Were Young is a standard that is also done as a conversation between John and I. There really isn't a separate solo. There are a lot of little goodies stashed away in this one.
Ju Ju is a Wayne Shorter composition that we took as a samba in 7. The song has a whole tone harmonic underpinning but we were loose and non literal with it.
Infant Eyes has to be one of the all time greatest ballads ever. Wayne shorter is a master creating a simple evocative melody with hip changes shifting underneath.
The Song Is You remains unstated until the very last 16 bars. John and I approached this as a constant running dialogue rather than as the tradition head solos out formula.
Hopefully this will be a harbinger of many more projects !
This CD is a reunion of sorts for John Stowell and I. I first met John back in the late 70's, and we first played together on a tour with the late great drummer Eddie Moore and bassist David Friesen. We found we had some chemistry and during the early 80's we played gigs and a couple of tours.
Things got real busy for me trying to support a family so I had to play a lot of gigs often on the road and out of the country. John was often traveling and also quite busy...We sort of fell into other grooves and quit performing together for quite a while.
Since our days in the 80's we have both changed as players and people but I always missed playing with John. When we got together with bassist Chuck Kistler and drummer Adam Kessler we really had fun playing together again...and I guess I would have to say the chemistry is still there. After a few sessions with the same group we started to get ambitious and this project is the result. Hope you like it.
I've admired Jay Thomas's playing since we first worked together more than twenty years ago. I still marvel at his fluency on trumpet and saxophone and his ability to move back and forth so effortlessly.We had some nice times back then.
I was very happy to see him at a big band gig we were both on recently and I suggested that we play again. Jay agreed, and put together a great band with Adam and Chuck. A few rehearsals later, we went into Greg Williamson's studio, and I think we captured something spontaneous and quite nice. I look forward to more playing with these wonderful musicians. Some thanks: to Jay, Chuck and Adam for playing beautifully, to Greg for his support with Pony Boy Records and engineering skills, and to Rob Olsen at Hofner Guitars.