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John Stowell: The Banff Sessions

While many players who came up in the ’70s and ’80s stylistically reflect the influence of Pass, Montgomery, Hall, Kessel, Burrell, Grant Green, and a few other players who helped forged the mainstream guitar style in the ’50s and ’60s, Oregon resident John Stowell plays with an airy, lithe approach the basis of which is advanced, close-voiced chords more akin to pianists like Bill Evans. On The Banff Sessions (Origin), his most recent recording, he joins forces with Canadian bassist par excellence Don Thompson, whose experience playing with Jim Hall and Ed Bickert makes him a seasoned veteran of the art of the guitar/bass duo (soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman sits in on three tracks). Kenny Wheeler’s “Everybody’s Song but My Own” opens things, sets the stage for things to come and provides a vehicle for Thompson and Stowell to establish a close rapport; the former lends interactive support and a moving solo, while the latter seamlessly moves back and forth between elegant lines and sophisticated harmonies. Later in the set, Jobim’s “Once I Loved” offers rhythmic relief and demonstrates the pair’s ability to freely operate within the tune’s structure and Brazilian groove. Liebman’s appearance on “Bye Bye Blackbird” adds a new dimension to the setting, and finds him taking advantage of the medium-tempo groove to get in some breathy, moody work that occasionally includes dissonance and helps transform a warhorse into a refined thoroughbred. Stowell’s style is often described as intellectual; however, this disc’s dynamic, multifaceted performance also clearly shows that he can swing as well.

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