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Loren Stillman: Trio Alto Volume One

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Loren Stillman is one of New York’s best alto saxophonists, and has gained the distinction well before reaching age 30. He’s made vital contributions to Andy Milne’s DAPP Theory, Eivind Opsvik’s Overseas project and the trio Jackalope (with John Abercrombie and Bob Meyer). His five quartet releases have made clear that his priority is original composition. But with Trio Alto Volume One, recorded around the same time as The Brothers’ Breakfast, we hear Stillman coming to grips with the standard repertoire. The track list includes “All the Things You Are,” “What Is This Thing Called Love” and “Body and Soul,” but also some less common choices. Flanked by bassist Steve LaSpina and drummer Jeff Hirshfield, Stillman refreshes even the most overplayed of tunes. He does include one original, however-a gritty minor-key line called “The State of the World.”

In the same chorus, Stillman can evoke the lyrical alto of Lee Konitz and the multiphonic attack of the post-Coltrane tenors. You’ll never hear a stock lick, even over the most lick-friendly progressions. LaSpina brings a broad sound and mellifluous solo chops to the table; Hirshfield, who has appeared on every Stillman release except the first, is very much in his element. The trio nods to Charlie Parker with the seldom-played “Red Cross,” and to Bill Evans with “Turn Out the Stars” and “Time Remembered.” It’s a timely comment on a good swath of the tradition, and the title suggests that Stillman’s not done.