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Robert Stewart: Beautiful Love

Showing considerable mastery and maturity compared with earlier recorded endeavors as leader and with the L.A. hard-bop group Black Note, tenor saxist Robert Stewart delivers a palatable eight-tune session of standards with pianist Eric Tillman, bassist Jeff Littleton, and drummer Brett Sanders. Stewart’s title-tune translation smacks of Ben Webster influences, and his seductive bluesy smears are bolstered by Sanders’ Latinate tempos and an eloquent solo from Tillman.

Among the (mostly) romantic ballads are two uptempo takes of “Speak Low,” a deep-toned rendering of “Everything Happens to Me,” a passionately tender version of “Body and Soul,” a brilliant, tempo-shifting, 11-minute read on Eddie Heywood’s “Canadian Sunset,” and other laid-back classics. The hardest swinging number is Benny Golson’s “Five Spot After Dark,” a splendid vehicle for Stewart’s brawny, acrobatic improvisations. Stewart’s music flows without conspicuous labor and his fluency, hearty tone, concise phrasing, and occasional Rollins-like quotes provide peak moments on this set that calls for kicking off your shoes and settling into your easy chair.

Originally Published