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John Stetch: Stetching Out

For just a spurt of the new blood with which John Stetch infuses jazz piano, connect with his rendition of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Surrey With A Fringe On Top.” Out of his native Alberta via Quebec, this artful Canadian-turned-New Yorker drives the traditional buggy up to Harlem where it gets a splash of salsa and a squirt of funk, in a delightful set of metric changeups skillfully linked by bassist Joe Martin and drummer Jeff Ballard.

On his own pastel etude “The Prairie Unfolds” and his thoughtful portrait “Savella,” Stetch displays his painterly skill as composer, setting melodic swatches within fully realized atmospheres. His light but dexterous keyboard touch works equally well in his quicker post-bop skip, “Snark.” And this virtuosity is put to the service of others’ standards, including a Beethovenesque reading of “For All We Know,” an architectural reworking of “Moonglow” which is at the same time intelligent and playful, and a prismatic diffraction of Monk’s ultraviolet “Pannonica.”

Originally Published