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John Stein: Hi Fly

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Veteran Boston-based guitarist John Stein sails through this set of standards with rhythmic assuredness and a pleasing, warm-toned single-note attack that blends well with his quartet. Accompanied once again by stalwart bassist John Lockwood and dynamic drummer Zé Eduardo Nazario (affectionately known as “the Elvin Jones of Brazil”), along with keyboard wiz and current Berklee student Jake Sherman, Stein shows a mature, sophisticated approach on a swinging romp through “Speak Low.” Nazario provides sensitive, swinging brushwork on Stein’s buoyant “Skippin,'” then puts a brisk samba groove beneath a fresh take on Randy Weston’s “Hi Fly,” underscored by Sherman’s rich organ work.

Stein reveals a thoughtful ballad style on his haunting rendition of “Lazy Afternoon” and a sultry samba take on the beautiful standard “Laura.” Bassist Lockwood, a veteran on the Boston scene for decades, is prominently featured on “Threesome,” while his deep groove sets the tone for Stein’s noir-ish, organ-fueled “Plum Stone.” Nazario is turned loose on the midtempo swinger “Sea Smoke,” a showcase for his polyrhythmic aplomb on the kit, while Sherman’s chops and harmonic sophistication are showcased on an invigorating interpretation of the standard “Love Letters,” which shifts tempos from fast to all-out burn. The closer, Stein’s plodding blues “Funkin’ It Up,” is the one unexceptional track here. With Nazario uncharacteristically chained to a static groove, it feels leaden next to the rest of this spirited, swinging and highly interactive program.

Originally Published