West coast jazz guitarist John Stowell’s popularity surged in the late 1970s and early 1980s with his solo recordings (“Golden Delicious”) and electric guitar/acoustic bass duo collaborations with David Friesen (“Other Mansions”). Heck, he even won the “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” top honors in Downbeat’s International Critics’ Poll in 1978 and 1979.
Fast forward 30 years, and Stowell is still a master jazz guitarist plying his trade all over the world and releasing fabulous solo and trio albums near the edges of the popular jazz world.
Stowell’s appearance in Justin’s in Albany last weekend with former Nick Brignola sidemen bassist George Kaye and drummer Dave Calarco was a treat to those in the know.
After a few adjustments of the sound gear and fine tuning the guitar, Stowell and his bandmates launched into a smorgasbord of jazz standards and classics. Stowell’s fluid guitar lines, filled with passionate dynamics, immersed himself into the musical heart of several beautifully crafted jazz-compositions by Dave Brubeck (“Star Eyes”), Wayne Shorter (“Black Eyes”) and John Scofield (“The Beatles”).
Dave Calarco, known as a power-house drummer, showed the sensitive and delicate side of his playing. Upright acoustic bassist George Kaye’s fingers danced up and down the neck of his upright acoustic bass, as Stowell improvised his way through a storm of continuous musical ideas.
Without a doubt, the first set’s stand-out composition was “Changons,” culled from the movie soundtrack of “Round Midnight,” starring Dexter Gordon. The trio not only gelled completely on that one, but they transcended time and place, taking the audience to an intimate basement jazz club on Paris’ Left Bank. What a great way to travel!
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk