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Phil Stockli Quintet: Third Eye

The 30-year-old Swiss alto and tenor saxophonist Phil Stöckli gives us something we’ve not much heard since the heyday of Creed Taylor’s CTI label in the 1970s: a lavishly (some, including myself, might say, over-) produced, fairly straightahead jazz record. The first track on Third Eye (Fresh Sound New Talent), “Source Nature,” incorporates smarmy background vocals, overdubbed sax harmonies, synth pads and an artifical-sounding piano. To be fair, it’s the disc’s most blatant case of cheese-making, and it’s not even a bad tune-a reasonably catchy pseudo samba obscured by some unfortunate production choices. The same can be said of Stöckli’s take on “Body and Soul,” a classic song rendered kitschy by a fussy arrangement and a gimmicky mix (I would definitely lose those slick little panning tricks employed here and elsewhere on the record). On the positive side, Stöckli’s ambition is commendable. So are his sidemen, including the nicely cooking rhythm team of bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jeff Ballard. Stöckli himself is a good player once the externals are stripped away. Actually, this kind of stuff tends to be popular, so maybe he’s on the right track.

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