Monday, January 25, 2016

John Stowell & Michael Zilber Quartet - Live Beauty (2015)

Anyone who has enjoyed previous collaborations by guitarist John Stowell and saxophonist Michael Zilber will be delighted to discover that nothing gets lost in the transition from studio to stage on this 2012 concert recording. It’s an intimate quartet affair, marked by the kind of soulful, instinctual interplay that fans have come to expect.

In the album’s liner notes, Stowell and Zilber briefly discuss their creative relationship, the yin and yang of opposing musical temperaments. And as the performances unfold, it’s easy to understand why they think their compatibility is as special as it is unlikely. Stowell’s probing lyricism and Zilber’s innate passion are clearly evident, especially when the reedman plays soprano, but so, too, is the desire to find common ground. Certainly the kinetic “Quantum Theory,” the noir-ish “In the Park” and a multifaceted cover of “My Funny Valentine” are proof of that.

Drummer Jason Lewis and bassist John Shifflett have integral roles throughout, shining as both players and composers. When Lewis isn’t contributing rhythmic lift with his tumbling rolls, or generating waves of second-line funk on John Scofield’s “Wabash III,” he light-handedly creates a scrim of tinted accents. Shifflett’s solos, sleek and sinuous, are particularly well aligned with Stowell’s ruminative streak, though the bassist is more often heard supporting the bandleaders with a resonant yet never intrusive sound. So even when the focus is squarely on Stowell or Zilber, the performances reveal another artful dimension that consistently heightens the album’s appeal.

Michael Zilber - Saxes
John Stowell - Guitars
John Shifflett - Bass
Jason Lewis - Drums

01. In The Park (11:54)
02. Shot Through With Beauty (11:34)
03. Quantum Theory ( 7:12)
04. Stowell What ( 7:58)
05. Cookie Monster Blue ( 9:02)
06. My Funny Valentine ( 6:21)
07. Wabash III ( 7:46)