Reviews: Alone Together
The Marvin Stamm Quartet
Jazzed Media (JM 9002)
Personnel: Marvin Stamm, Trumpet & Flugelhorn; Bill Mays, piano;
Rufus Reid, bass; Ed Soph, drums
Tracks: Alone Together (Dietz/Schwartz); Come Out and Play (Reid); Invitation (Kaper/Webster); Baubles, Bangles & Beads (Borodin/Wright/Forrest); Lagrima Agradecida (Mays; Fun House (Mays); When She Looks At Me (Stamm); 'T's Butter (Stamm)
O's Place Jazz Newsletter
April 4, 2008
Reviewed by D. Oscar Groomes
Alone Together opens with a cool number featuring Stamm (t) playing the melody on top of syncopated rhythms from Bill Mays (p) and a funky bass line from Rufus Reid. Ed Soph (d) keeps time while injecting splashes on the cymbals that sweetens the mix. The program includes both cool covers and original pieces from Marvin, Bill and Rufus. We really liked “Invitation” with Mays strumming the piano strings during the opening notes. Bill explodes with a solo midway through “Lagrima Agradecida.”
This is a dynamic performance. There is also a DVD included that gave us an even greater appreciation of what was happening. The band's enthusiasm spilled over to the audience! We heard it first and the video confirmed it.
April - June Issue, 2008
Reviewed by Jim Santella
Alone Together features a Straight-Ahead quartet that has been together for over 12 years. Marvin Stamm, a persuasive trumpeter with a light, golden tone, caresses each melody with a warm heart and a fluid technique. His is a true quartet in which the four artists share equally. Stamm learned his craft with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, developing a deep-seated relationship with Jazz standards. Only three of the selections on this program fall into that category, however, as the trumpeter and his partners prefer to chart their own cohesive course of action. Both familiar songs and original compositions receive creative brush strokes of many colors during this concert performance in the intimate room provided by the Rising Jazz Stars Foundation in Beverly Hills. Active in the Los Angeles area for the past two years, the foundation has brought Jazz talent deserving wider recognition to the public, including veterans such as Enrico Pieranunzi, Ernie Watts, Eliane Elias, Romero Lubambo and Steve Kuhn as well as newcomers Gerald Clayton, Josh Nelson, and Tamir Hendelman (three young pianists with a future). By filming the concert and creating this CD/DVD package, Jazzed Media has put itself in the same position as the Rising Jazz Stars Foundation: expanding the boundaries for a deserving quartet. The DVD, filmed in color—up close and personal, with multiple camera angles—runs with the same musical program but a little longer, since Stamm’s conversation and introductions are included. The quartet gave its audience a memorable affair that day in November 2006; one that won’t be forgotten.
March 8, 2008
Reviewed by Ken Dryden
The Marvin Stamm Quartet: Alone Together is a rare treat for jazz lovers: a double disc package with both a CD and DVD from a club date in 2006 containing identical performances (with a little more conversation between numbers on the latter). Stamm and Mays are joined by bassist Rufus Reid and their frequent collaborator Ed Soph on drums. The opening track is an atypical approach to a familiar standard. Mays hand-mutes chords and Reid plays a droning line in a rather striking, funky setting of “Alone Together”, with Stamm serving as the straight man on trumpet. Reid's intricate bop vehicle “Come Out and Play” is full of twists, showcasing Stamm's inventive flugelhorn. The combination of Stamm's bittersweet, mellow larger horn and Mays' string strumming add new blood to the standard “Invitation”.
The originals are equally enjoyable. Stamm's “When She Looks at Me” is a dreamy ballad perfect for late night listening, though Mays steals the show a bit; his “T's Butter” is a wild reworking of Sonny Rollins' “Oleo” (which is in turn based on “I Got Rhythm”) that brings down the house. Mays' original “Lagrima Agradecida” is an engaging bossa nova while his “Fun House” opens as an abstract piano-drum duet then switches to a challenging postbop theme.
The audio, camera work and editing is first rate, in spite of having to deal with a small stage and an audience very close to the players.
The Journal of the International Society of Bassists
Reviewed by Paul Pearce
The legendary jazz journalist and critic, Gene Lees, has stated on many occasions: “Jazz is best created and enjoyed when it is in a ‘live’ setting.” Confirming this fact is the recent recording by Marvin Stamm and his band of musical brothers. When Marvin, Bill Mays, Rufus Reid and Ed Soph perform in a concert setting, its pure magic. And the bonus here is that you get both a DVD of the concert as well as the CD recording.
The opening piece, “Alone Together,” by Schwartz and Dietz is most interesting with pianist Mays dampening the strings with his left hand while playing – getting some interesting sounds. Mays moves into a swinging groove with Reid and Soph that sets up a fluid trumpet solo by Marvin. (He can play so soft and yet swing so hard!) Rufus’ solo is, well, a wonderful Rufus bass solo – so in tune and tasty. “Come Out and Play” is a composition by Rufus Reid. Stamm, Mays and Reid state the melody in unison and Mays follows with his take on the arrangement. Marvin and Rufus follow Bill with solos.
Kaper and Webster’s “Invitation” begins as a slow ballad with Mays strumming the piano strings like a harp accompanying Stamm. It then moves into a modest Latin beat with great stick work by Ed Soph. As pure and sweet as sugar. Possibly the golden nugget in this project is Marvin’s arrangement of the well known “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.” It swings and moves in and out of 3/4 time and 4/4 time. Bill Mays knows just when to ‘lay out’ and how to frame the chords behind Marvin and Rufus as they deliver creative gems. Next is a piece penned by Mays, “Lagrima Agradecida.” Played with a Latin bounce this arrangement has smiles from all aboard – these friends are having a ball! “Fun House,” also written by Mr. Mays, shows a bit of the humor and playfulness of this pianist. With great support from his cohorts, Bill shines on this one. Stamm’s “When She Looks At Me,” written for a very special person, is a musical portrait and a showcase for Marvin’s gorgeous flugelhorn play –a ballad to behold; lovely.
“T’s Butter,” the closer of the concert, was composed by Marvin and is an up-tempo romp featuring solos all around. Showing the humor in his writing (‘it’s not Butter, it’s Parkay’) Marvin and Bill stretch out on this wild ride down a ‘slippery slope’ – and ‘a good time was had by all!’ What fun.
Marvin Stamm has an amazing list of credits. He was ‘discovered’ by Stan Kenton while still a student at the University of North Texas and joined Kenton upon graduating (recording five albums with him.) Stamm toured worldwide with Woody Herman before settling in New York City. He has worked with many of the giants of this music including the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Bill Evans, Quincy Jones, Lena Horne, Louis Bellson’s Big Band, Paul Desmond, the Benny Goodman Sextet and Frank Sinatra. In addition to his performing career, Stamm spends a good deal of his time and energy helping young students through his involvement in Jazz education with high schools and universities across the U.S. and abroad.
Congratulations to Marvin and his distinguished colleagues on this successful project. Master musicians Bill Mays, Rufus Reid and Ed Soph are a class act and their contributions to this recording are immeasurable. Five stars and highly recommended.
Jazz Improv Magazine
Volume 7, No. 4 Winter 2007
Reviewed by Dave Miele
Jazz is a live music, It’s meant to be heard and seen in person. Of course, we need recorded documentation. Of course, there are classic albums recorded in the sterile environment of the recording studio. Yet, at its best, jazz is a live music. Whenever I get the chance, I try to see and listen to live jazz. My love of live jazz was one of the reasons I was so happy to see Alone Together, the latest release by Marvin Stamm, arrive in my mailbox for review. Another was the stellar band accompanying the trumpeter. Pianist Bill Mays, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Ed Soph create a formidable rhythm section, to say the least. Stamm is a magnificent player and composer, leading the all-star band through a set of originals and standards.
The program opens with the title track, which receives an intricate and intense arrangement which blends half-time funk with hard-hitting swing. The band plays in an elastic and interactive manner and each take powerful improvisations. Other highlights among the standards include a haunting ballad treatment of “Invitation” and a medium/up rendition of “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads” which plays with the difference of 3/4 and 4/4 time. Pianist Mays contributes two compositions. “Lagrima Agradecida” has a Brazilian flavor, while “Fun House” is a funky, syncopated swing number. Rufus Reid’s tune is entitled “Come Out and Play” and is set in a medium/up swing tempo. Stamm himself penned both “When She Looks at Me,” a ballad, and “T’s Butter,” a take on the changes to Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo,” named after the old Parkay commercials.
These players are simply magnificent. They effortlessly weave in and out of well thought-out and intricate arrangements. What makes the package so special is that Alone Together comes with a DVD of the complete concert. You can both listen in your car and watch the musicians perform in the comfort of your own home. With these masters presented on both CD and DVD, you simply cannot go wrong. And it’s live.
December 9, 2007
Reviewed by Jerry D’Souza
CD/DVD packages are still relatively unusual, but then the musicians responsible for this one are not your usual collection of players. Marvin Stamm (trumpet and flugelhorn), Bill Mays (piano), Rufus Reid (bass) and Ed Soph (drums) are a positive and cohesive force. They have been playing together for a long time, their first recording, The Stamm/Stoph Project (Marstam Music), released in 2000. Stamm and Mays have also played and recorded as a duo. Before going into the studio to record this session, the foursome spent a week on a jazz cruise on which they played four concerts. Upon return to port, Stamm thought it an appropriate time for the group to put some music down, and in front of a “live” audience. He was right.
The material for the session is choice, and the quartet delves into it with spirited emotion. They create and reinvent with consummate ease, their hearts set firmly in the pulse. “Alone Together,” their starting point, finds Mays priming a deep well of ideas—his stops and starts, use of space, and sparkling runs the source of constant delight. Stamm comes in, swinging and buoyant in his statement of the melody, then building intensity around his improvisations.
Likewise, the ethereal melody of ”Lagrima Agradecida,” a Latin composition by Mays, floats on the spirited stream of Stamm's trumpet before proving just the right stimulus for the solo constructions of each player. Stamm injects some flinty phrases, holding to a harder line before changing tack with billowing notes. Mays seamlessly grabs the melody, then punctuates and fuels it with intensity, all the while proving no less a melodist than the trumpeter.
”’T’s Butter,” the closer on the program, drives into hard bop. The tempo is flexible, opening space for Stamm and Mays to jump in with an engaging dialogue of tastefully ripe phrases. The pair's melodic inventiveness is complemented by their attention to dynamics—at once colourful and trenchant, for which equal credit is due Soph and Reid, who moreover lay down a rhythm bed with artful conviction.
The music on the companion DVD is the same as that on the audio disc, but the visual dimension brings the viewer closer to the group and, as a result, offers its own distinct pleasures. As spectator, the listener can appreciate the way the quartet interacts with an audience, having fun and establishing a warm, relaxed atmosphere conducive to inspired playing.
Finally, the two-fer offers even more rewards. We become privileged witnesses to the amused look and the twinkle in the eye of Mays playing directly on the strings of the piano; to the technique and physical grace of Soph with the brushes while hearing his creativity with accents on the traps and snares; to the mastery of Reid as the camera closes in on his digital fluidity; and to the articulate, commanding Stamm in his multiple roles as moderator, leader, trumpet master and artist. It’s a multileveled treat, as the camera work and direction draw the viewer into a stimulating vortex of emotions and sensations.
“The Voice” 88.7 FM - December's Top 10 Picks
December 10, 2007
Marvin Stamm, Bill Mays, Rufus Reid and Ed Soph are four outstanding musicians, who've played their respective instruments with eloquence and alacrity for decades now. And when it comes to a post modern presence in the new Century, this group is one of the best around, exuding a traditional hard bop, ‘let's git down and have some fun’ style. Prominent members of the New York and Los Angeles studio scenes, these well respected gentlemen have the experience to make it so.
Alone Together is a Live Performance CD with a companion DVD, recorded at Rising Stars in Beverly Hills. When you view this piece of music, you see the professionalism and joy from these gentlemen. Marvin Stamm still has amazing chops on flugelhorn and trumpet. Bill Mays plays piano, moving his shoulders, physically, like a boogie woogie player astride an upright in a smoky blind pig with fervency and a smile in blazing counterpoint accuracy amid various time signatures as in “Invitation.” If you're looking for experience, elocution and artful live jazz, you've come to the right place. Rufus Reid premier bassist, graduated Sacramento High School, by the way, and whose professional career expanded after military service to Seattle, Chicago and New York and the international jazz scene. Ed Soph is a multi-faceted drummer and teacher, matriculated in both the big band and small band forms with videos declaring as such. This is a very gamy band and since is a true live performance. Songs, as the Reid original, “Come Out And Play” are loose and relaxed in hard bop culture. Stamm's “T's Culture” or “T's Butter” displays a Soph and Reid distinctive signature especially Soph's fast articulate renderings.
What all this indicates is Marvin Stamm's new Alone Together CD is one of the most articulate of band members playing in a very sophisticated and 'solid' group language, outward bound jazz in seamless and joyful energy.
Marvin Stamm, Bill Mays, Rufus Reid and Ed Soph will make you a true believer in the essentialness and breeze of modern movements in live jazz.
December Issue, 2007
Reviewed by Mike Joyce
Time flies when you’re spending an hour-plus with an ensemble that has developed the kind of conversational rapport evident on this live CD/DVD recording. Recorded in an intimate West Coast setting in 2006, trumpeter Stamm’s quartet moves with deceptive ease through a series of standards and original tunes. The quartet’s distinctive approach to the album’s title (and opening) track is typical. It takes on an episodic form, bracketed by funk-accented passages and generously showcases the talents of Stamm, pianist Bill Mays, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Ed Soph.
Performing as a unit for over a decade now, the musicians favor expansive, shape-shifting arrangements that are often laced with lyrical, neatly resolved solos. Stamm’s trumpet and flugelhorn add plenty of color and contrasts, and Mays, who sometimes reaches for the keyboard strings to add muffled tones or harp-like flourishes, is in particularly expressive form. He’s also engagingly lighthearted at times, especially on “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads,” where he alludes to “Surrey With The Fringe On Top” in mid-improvisation. Reid’s melodic touch and Soph’s delightful brush work are also amply featured during a performance that blends romantic ballads (“Invitation”) with Brazilian themes (Mays’ breezy “Lagrima Agradecida”) and hard-bop excursions (Stamm’s “T’s Butter,” the album’s vibrant coda, is harmonically and humorously linked to “Oleo”). While Stamm and Mays contribute most of the original tunes, Reid’s “Com Out and Play” is enticing fun. The DVD disc production is straight-forward, capturing the performance with crispness and clarity.
Reviewed by Jack Bowers
Alone Together is not only another splendid album by trumpeter Marvin Stamm’s quartet (does he ever produce anything less?), it also comes with a bonus - a DVD whose playing sequence duplicates the CD and allows one to see and hear Stamm, pianist Bill Mays, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Ed Soph as they study one another, alertly interact and carefully work things out in a concert taped on November 2006.
The quartet as it now stands has been performing together for more than a dozen years, and the rapport and camaraderie are readily apparent. These gentlemen are longtime friends who obviously take pleasure in playing together. You can hear it on the CD, and see it in their faces on the DVD. Stamm underscores the point in his cogent liner notes: “Our sensitivity to one another is the only boundary; and because this is an innate quality within each of us, it allows us complete freedom of expression. This is the joy of our playing together.”
That freedom is immediately visible on “Alone Together,” on which Mays “plucks” the piano strings to lend a bracing twist to his solo, and surfaces elsewhere throughout the invigorating session. This is especially true on Mays’ playful “Fun House,” which swings happily along behind gregarious solos by Mays and Stamm. Mays also wrote “Lagrima Agradecida,” Stamm the ballad “When She Looks at Me” and the mercurial “T’s Butter,” Reid the lively “Come Out and Play.” Completing the program are Bronislau Kaper’s haunting “Invitation,” Robert Wright and George Forrest’s “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” (from the Broadway musical Kismet) and the title song by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz.
The recording is crystal clear, albeit slanted a bit too heavily toward Mays’ piano. No problem during solos, but his comping is at times intrusive. Not his fault, of course. Soph and Reid fare better, balance-wise. Reid has a number of tasteful solos, while Soph unleashes his impressive arsenal on “T’s Butter,” following the last of Stamm’s admirable solos. As both the CD and DVD have playing times approaching an hour and a quarter, there’s no cause for complaint in that area.
Any written appraisal, of course, only scratches the surface. As Stamm observes, “One can talk and write about the music, but in reality, it is all in the listening.” The suggestion here is that you take his advice and listen (and see) for yourself.
October 24, 2007
Reviewed by Jeff Krow
Marvin Stamm Quartet - Alone Together - Jazzed Media JM 9002, DVD: 79:18 + CD: 73:35 - Recorded Live 11/5/06 ****1/2:
(Marvin Stamm, trumpet and Flugelhorn; Bill Mays, piano; Rufus Reid, bass; Ed Soph, drums)
The new Marvin Stamm CD/DVD issue from Jazzed Media was recorded in optimum conditions for this quartet. Stamm’s quartet had just come off a week in the relaxed setting of a jazz cruise (leaving from San Diego), and had played for four full concerts on the cruise. Therefore, any kinks had been worked out and the quartet was both tight and confident. Directly after leaving the cruise ship, they drove to Beverly Hills to set up for filming and doing a sound check.
The result is this CD/DVD issue, combining three standards: “Alone Together,” “Invitation,” and “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads” - with five originals from band members. The recording was done in front of a live audience, who witnessed a relaxed creative set. The video is clear and color-correct, and the audio quality is one of being five feet away from the band in an intimate nightclub setting.
Bill Mays is an inventive top drawer pianist, whether comping for Stamm’s powerful solos, or having ample time to develop his own piano choruses. Rufus Reid, the consummate bass veteran gets plenty of opportunities to solo himself, and his pizzicato lines are pristine sounding as his bass is well miked. Reid’s own composition, “Come Out and Play” was new to the band's book, but their concerts the week before showed their preparation to be “ship shape.” Mays and Stamm blend well here with Reid setting up the bottom end.
The standard ballad “Invitation” is gorgeous with Stamm’s warm Flugelhorn tone, and Mays uses his fingers to strum the piano’s inner strings. At 14:08, the song can take its time in development, and Soph’s cymbal work sets up Stamm to increase the song's intensity.
“Lagrima Agradecida” is a nice feature for Stamm, and is based on May’s time spent in Brazil. Drummer Soph’s brush work is put to good use on May’s “Fun House.” Rufus Reid is featured as well here. Two Stamm compositions conclude the concert - “When She Looks at Me” and “T’s Butter” - the former a mellow ballad featuring Mays comping behind Stamm’s flugelhorn, and the latter based on the chord changes to Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo.”
Alone Together is a nice find, providing both audio and video treats. It's always nice to hear a great CD and wonder what it was like to hear and view the session in person. Alone Together provides that opportunity.
TrackList: Alone Together, Come Out and Play, Invitation, Baubles, Bangles and Beads, Lagrima Agradecida, Fun House, When She Looks at Me, ‘T’s Butter
Rifftides – Doug Ramsey
October 11, 2007
Reviewed by Doug Ramsey
DVD: Marvin Stamm
Marvin Stamm, Alone Together (Jazzed Media)
Trumpeter Stamm's quartet with pianist Bill Mays, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Ed Soph reaches its peak in this concert at Rising Stars, a cozy Southern California concert space. Equipped with microphones, cameras and lighting, the little hall is also a state-of-the-art audio and video studio. We see and hear the musicians with clarity, intimacy and a variety of camera angles rare in jazz DVDs. From the chance-taking opening of the title tune to the rip-roaring “T's Butter,” this hour-and-twenty-minute concert is a joy. The DVD comes with a bonus CD of the performance, minus a few minutes of spoken material.
October 19, 2007
Reviewed by Scott Yanow
This live quartet concert from November 5, 2006 has been made available by Jazzed Media in this package both on CD and as a filmed DVD. The only difference between the two mediums is that the DVD also contains closing credits and a little more talking between songs. Trumpeter Marvin Stamm and pianist Bill Mays always make for a very compatible team and that is true throughout these three standards and five originals. Mays, who is often seen playing inside the piano to set up an atmosphere on the more lyrical pieces, is in top form, while Stamm's trumpet and flugelhorn have rarely sounded more beautiful and haunting. With bassist Rufus Reid (who contributed “Come Out and Play”) and drummer Ed Soph offering alert and inventive support, all of the musicians play at their best on the advanced hard bop material. The DVD also contains expert camera work which really accentuates one's listening experience. Recommended.
Decemeber, 2007 Issue
Reviewed by Joe Lang
The current trend toward packaging a CD and a DVD of the same performances does provide the buyer with an opportunity to enjoy the music, assuming that it is enjoyable, on different levels. While jazz is not ostensibly as visual a musical experience as much as is the case in the worlds of pop and rock music, where the visuals have become increasingly dominant as the quality of the music has subsided, the opportunity to witness the interplay that is taking place among jazz musicians through body English, facial expressions and cues, can add to the appreciation and understanding of what is occurring. Alone Together (Jazzed Media – 9002) captures a 2006 performance by THE MARVIN STAMM QUARTET, a stellar group comprised of Stamm on trumpet, Bill Mays on piano, Rufus Reed on bass and Ed Soph on drums. These cats have been playing together off and on since the early 1990’s, and their tightness reflects the longevity of their association. Stamm spent a good portion of his career buried in the trumpet section of big bands and then in the studio scene in New York City, a career path that limited his exposure to the general public. Well, he has been making up for lost time in an impressive way over the last 15 or so years, and is recognized by his peers, and increasingly by the general jazz public, as a monster of a jazz trumpet player. His roots are firmly planted in the bebop tradition, but he is not prone toward overplaying his horn as are so many who were similarly schooled. He is clever and to the point, always playing enough notes to keep things moving, saying what he has to say, and getting out of the way. In Mays, Reid and Soph, he has perfect partners. Mays has an unbridled imagination. He never hesitates to pluck or strum the strings of the piano to create a particular feeling. Also a fine composer, he has contributed “Fun House” and “Lagrima Agradecida,” a dreamy Latin-flavored melody that takes off into some more up-tempo places during the solo interludes by Stamm and Mays, before returning to its attractive theme. Reid is another outstanding player who is also an accomplished composer, as is evident on his contribution to this set, “Come Out and Play.” Soph is always exactly where he needs to be time wise, and with the accents. The balance of the program is “Alone Together,” “Invitation,” Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” and two Stamm originals, “When She Looks at Me” and “T’s Butter.” Listen to the CD, and, when you have the time, sit back and watch the DVD to observe what was going on as the music was created. Either way, you will have a fine time.