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April 2008

Rory Stuart Quartet
So Rise Up
StreetCatMusic

So Rise Up opens with “Experiment #2,” one of nine original pieces on the album composed by the gifted (and sorely under-recorded) guitarist Rory Stuart. The tune is a sampler of sorts, as it emphasizes some of Stuart’s favorite things: angular intervals, odd meters, tart harmonies, modal tacks, funk-swing forays, shifts in tempo, dynamics and rhythmic interplay. The quartet arrangement isn’t far removed from some of the funk-accented tracks recorded by John Scofield and Charlie Hunter (with saxist John Ellis), though it has its own logic, heat and momentum, thanks in part to saxophonist Mark Shim, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Ari Hoenig.

Stuart’s gifts as a player and composer are further displayed in a colorful variety of settings. “Lembrancas,” the only familiar track here (previously recorded by Tuck and Patti), quietly evolves from light-fingered balladry into a brisk samba-esque interlude. “Unexpected Path,” another odd-meter foray into jazz-funk, is enlivened by reedman Shim’s Maceo Parker-like jabbing, Stuart’s extended chord comping and drummer Hoenig’s insistent, goodfoot prodding. Nothing on the album is more bracing than “The Same Old Same Old,” which borrows freely and cleverly from swing, bop and postbop traditions, or more insinuating than “Pensive,” a brush-stroked ballad with a lingering minor-key melody. Stuart’s firmly grounded technique and inquisitive spirit shines through these performances—plus the album’s title track—and the close rapport he’s developed with his bandmates is always evident, especially when the tempo is swift and the meter tricky.

Originally published in April 2008
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