If People Could Talk
Drummer Vic Stevens has proven to be a fine sideman, particularly with outside-the-box guitarists such as Allan Holdsworth, David Torn and David Fiuczynski. His recording career as a leader, however, hasn’t equaled that success. Whether with the McGill/Manring/Stevens trio (with guitarist Scott McGill and bassist Michael Manring) or his own Mistaken Identities project, Stevens never seems to contribute material interesting enough to merit comparison with the bandleaders he’s worked with.
His latest, If People Could Talk, is a case in point. Stevens assembled a fine band for the disc, including Manring, a fretless marvel. But the drummer wrote or co-wrote every composition, and his pen-in-hand reach exceeds its grasp in comparison to the playing of the rhythm section, keyboardist Demetrios Pappas, guitarist Alex Domschot, saxophonist Ken Gioffre and percussionist Hector Rosado. The drummer also plays keyboards on the opening track, “Peace,” which drones for four minutes in search of resolution.
When Pappas gets more involved, things improve. On the title track, he solos on piano over Manring’s serpentining bassline. Gioffre alternates between tenor and soprano saxes on a handful of cuts, the best of which is “Run If You Must.” It’s one of the few Stevens compositions that shows the rhythmic influence of his great drumming teachers (Joe Morello, Kenwood Dennard, Peter Erskine, Lenny White).
Most others hit the synthesized, New Age snooze button, even the Percy Jones-enhanced “Which One’s Moe?” The British Jones was Jaco Pastorius’ fretless bass alter-ego through the 1970s with Brand X, and he guests on the trio piece with Stevens and Domschot. Yet it, like much of If People Could Talk, never really goes anywhere.