Sunday, July 10, 2011

CD Review: Rick Stone Trio - Fractals

Year: 2011

Style: Jazz/Bebop

Label: Jazzand

Musicians: Rick Stone - Guitar; Marco Panascia - Bass; Tom Pollard - Drums.

Guitarist: Rick Stone
 Review: The title of this new Rick Stone CD: "Fractals," sounded singularly intriguing; it sent me scurrying to the dictionary for my own edification; it turns out, they are: Geometrical or physical structures having irregular or fragmented shapes at all measurements between a greatest and smallest scale such that certain mathematical or physical properties of the structures, as the perimeter of a curve or the flow rate in a porous medium, behave as if the dimensions of the structure (fractal dimensions) are greater than the spatial dimensions.

Eschewing the temptation to deconstruct this Pythagorean-like definition in favor of focusing on Rick Stone Trio's musical "dimensions," reveals an album of splendid originals by Stone, combined with time-tested ballads and standards by such venerated composers as, Victor Young, Jimmy Van Heusen, Billy Strayhorn and Jerome Kern, imbuing the album with an aura of freshness, modernity, immediacy and depth.

Rick Stone's handling of standards and ballads is deft, sure, and well rounded out by the evenness of Marco Panascia's bass and Tom Pollard's drums. Stone sets the 'standard', so to speak, by selecting Victor Young's fascinating "Stella by Starlight" as the CD's opener; a title evoking an ethereal, mysterious, alluring beauty, yet Stone ingeniously casts it in a marvelously, glowing, bop-ish light, diffused through a cool energy that keeps the melody centered and reflective of the warmth and delicacy intended by its composer.

Stone's original compositions resonate with sparkling energy and delightful emotion; with well detailed musical thoughts, and cohesive musical arguments. His guitar tone is clear, rounded, and its color is warm, almost velvety; they accentuate the proficiency and versatility of his composing skills; ranging from medium tempo, modern 'bluesy,' thought-composed (Fractals; Nacho Mama's Blues), to melodic 'lilting' swing (Scobie; Key Lime Pie; Speed Bump), to slow tempo (Places Left Behind); each tune containing challenging and invigorating phrasing that is never square or boring, and blended with melodic, rhythmic elements carefully chosen to build to a clear climax.

Considering the trio's command over the more subtle playing on (Darn That Dream; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; Ballad for Very Sad and Very Tired Lotus Eaters), it is tempting to overlook their prodigious technique on the more rhythmically stimulating tunes (Fractals; Key Lime Pie; The Phrygerator), where bassist Panascia and drummer Pollard dexterously advance an adaptable beat that weaves an ancillary  fabric affording Stone's guitar the respite for his own improvisations; each in the process contributing their own solo work, underscoring or delineating Stone's urgent guitar riffs.

Along with the sublime musicianship permeating the date, the order and organization of the CD's tunes assure ultimate listening pleasure. Stone has artfully and tactfully bracketed his original compositions (in pairs) between recognizable, first-rate ballads (Stella by Starlight; Darn That Dream; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; Ballad for Very Sad and Very Tired Lotus Eaters); maintaining the trio's "freshness" and easy reach of his listeners' musical palate; never leaving their tastes wandering too long in what might be the unfamiliar musical territory of his compositions; and ensuring that they are never far from the comfort of a "musical home." This deliberate, or inadvertent serendipity, has the broader effect of building and releasing the CD's collective musical tension; tacitly formulating a heightened sense of expectation and suspense that add immeasurably to complete listening satisfaction and enjoyment.

"Fractals" is the first album produced by Rick Stone in five years. Hopefully his audience will not have to endure another long wait before his next recording is released. This may, or may not, have anything to do with fractals, geometric or physical structures and measurements. Most assuredly though, the sum of all the musical parts of this new CD from Stone, seems to fit very nicely into the spectrum of spatial dimensions that were available; making this an outstanding musical date for The Rick Stone Trio, by any measurement, on any scale, great or small.

Track Listing: Stella by Starlight; Fractals; Key Lime Pie; Darn That Dream; Scoby; Nacho Mama's Blues; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; Places Left Behind; Speed Bump; Ballad for Very Sad and Very Tired Lotus Eaters; The Phrygerator.

Recorded January 3rd & 4th, 2011 at Acoustic Recording, Brooklyn, NY

Recording Engineer: Michael Brorby

Mastering Engineer: A. T. Michael MacDonald

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