Guitarist John Stein is a native of Kansas City, Missouri. He earned a Bachelor Of Music degree from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Apparently he decided the school and Beantown suited him, because he can still be found there today as an associate professor in the Harmony department.
In addition to teaching and performing, Stein has written books on composing blues and jazz, as well as a book of arrangements of jazz standards for guitar. For those interested in more information about the books, see the link to Stein’s web site at the end of this article.
Stein’s latest album, “Emotion”, was released in 2014. In 2012 I wrote about another of Stein’s albums, the 2008 release “Raising The Roof” from Whaling City Sound.
This time around I want to tell you about the album he followed up with a year later, 2009’s “Encounterpoint”, which is also on Whaling City Sound.
As always, let’s begin with the personnel, which in this case are the same as for “Raising The Roof”.
John Stein, guitar
Koichi Sato, acoustic piano and Rhodes
John Lockwood, acoustic bass
Zè Eduardo Nazario, drums
Stein is a prolific songwriter, and “Encounterpoint” gives us four of his tunes plus five more songs, some of which are standards and some of which probably should be.
The album opens with “Jordu”, from the late, great pianist Duke Jordan. As with most of the songs on this album, the guys give “Jordu” a rendition that can be called both lively and gentle.
To give credit where it is due, mixer John Chase quite wisely elected to not bury the percussion below the other instruments but rather to give it equal auditory importance. This has resulted in a recording that seems to sparkle. It is as close to perfectly capturing the essence of a live performance as you are likely to find in a studio recording.
Next we have the first of Stein’s own songs, “Line Drive.” In the liner notes, Ed Hazell calls this one “wistful and songlike.” I agree, but I would also add “rambunctious” to that. It opens quietly like a soft melody, but the pace soon picks up.
“The Roundabout” is another Stein original. This one leaves me shaking my head in admiration and envy. It’s no secret that the mark of a professional, regardless of the profession, is that they make the hardest things look (or sound) incredibly simple. Stein’s work here will make any wannabe guitar players out there weep with frustration.
Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote a fair number of songs during his long career. One of the more well-known is “Dindi”, which he wrote in 1966 for a Brazilian singer named Sylvia Telles (nicknamed Dindi). Tragically, she was killed in an automobile accident shortly after recording the song.
This arrangement of “Dindi” is that of a quiet ballad, with a hint of samba thrown in on the percussion. The guys do a beautiful job with this one, and you will find it quietly slides along to a gentle end.
“Close Your Eyes” by Bernice Petkere is next. Given a modern arrangement that really bops, the average music listener would be hard-pressed to guess that this was originally written in 1933! The guys rock out with this one (if you’ll pardon the expression), and keyboardist Sato steps away from the acoustic piano and gives us some great organ keying.
Next we have another of Stein’s creations, “Trois”. Liner note writer Hazell calls this one a “jazz waltz”. I’m not sure what a jazz waltz is supposed to sound like, but as the old saying goes, “I know what I like, and I like this”. It’s a great little song, and I think you’ll like it too.
As usual, I find myself running out of time with too much ground left to cover. So I will tell you about one more song before I call it an evening. The next to last song on “Encounterpoint” is a nice Jobim composition called “So Danco Samba”. This is another song that manages the neat trick of being mellow while at the same time walking down the wild side of the street.
The bottom line is, “Encounterpoint” from John Stein would make a wonderful addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!
To find out more about John Stein and his music, here are a few links, beginning with his web site. He can also be found on Facebook, and he has a YouTube channel with more videos than you can watch in an evening. Unfortunately, none appeared to be from “Encounterpoint” or I would have embedded a few here. Still, there is a lot of great jazz to be had there!
Thanks for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
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