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John Stein Trio: Interplay

After the all-originals session must come the standards session (this must be carved into a cave wall somewhere), and guitarist John Stein chooses not to fight his fate. After recording his own stuff on 2002’s Conversation Pieces, he attempts nothing more than a casual run through of his favorite standards on Interplay (Azika). What sets this session slightly apart from the gigantic pile of standards sessions is Stein’s lovely touch-he wrings more expression out of a melodic line then most other guitarists-his harmonically sophisticated style (in the Jim Hall lineage), and the latitude he gives his capable trio mates.

Stein told bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel that they could contribute as much or as little as they want at any time. While they hardly upend the balance of the traditional guitar trio, they do take Stein up on his offer. Israel occasionally mistakes this session for a rowdier one, but Lockwood is unfailingly strong and completely in tune with Stein’s concept. In turn, Stein rewards him with the first solo on the very first tune, Stein’s only original here, “Eleanor’s Folly.”

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