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Grant Stewart: Trio

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Working with Paul Sikivie on bass and brother Phil Stewart on drums throughout TRIO, tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart exhibits a big, direct tone and, in his solos, a knack for motivic development along with strategic melodic reminders of the tune at hand. While the piano-less format may suggest freer, avant-garde-leaning proceedings, Stewart’s approach is as straight-ahead as ever, and save for “Uranus” by Walter Davis Jr. and “Time to Smile” by Freddie Redd, the tunes are well-known standards. Still, Stewart manages to take advantage of the harmonic open air.

The program opens with “Time to Smile” at a medium tempo, wherein Stewart works out with melodic variations and sequences that demonstrate his inventiveness as well as his fidelity to the tune. Sikivie solos with a fat tone and percussive attack, and tenor and drums trade fours. Later in the set we hear an uptempo “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” with all the players locked in sync and cooking. “I’ll Never Be the Same,” one of the album’s three ballads, is easygoing, with Stewart serving up a musing but swinging solo. The medium-tempo “Uranus” offers empathetic, reactive tenor-and-drums interplay.

Originally Published