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- Reviews for the Stamm/Soph Project
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Jazz Improv Magazine
Reviewed by Jan Klincewicz
Personnel: Marvin Stamm – trumpet & flugelhorn; Ed Soph – drums; Bill Mays – piano; Rufus Reid – bass; John Abercrombie – guitar (tracks 3, 4, 7, 8)
The Stamm and Soph referred to in the title are Marvin and Ed, respectively (in case you haven’t guessed). It’s possible you have not, as neither of these folks are necessarily household names, unless your household is a recording studio. It’s got to be a lot of fun to cut loose in an anything-goes blowing session when your daily bread is earned reading someone else’s charts, and it shows.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about this CD is the precise, high-quality musicianship. Despite the fact these guys are swinging like mad, intonation and execution are never less than flawless. The confidence that exudes from a group of musicians who have mastered their respective instruments to the degree displayed here is unmistakable.
Marvin himself is a trumpet player’s trumpet player. His lines are not those of a saxophonist or even necessarily a deep harmonic thinker. His phrases belong to the trumpet, and he seems to take great delight in effortlessly blowing skeins of notes all over the range of the horn. His style ranges easily from classic swing to post-bop depending on the tune. It’s a cinch to see why you’d want a guy like this on your session. His mellow flugelhorn caresses ballads like velvet. When he gets into faster tempos, his big-band soloist roots come out. Having graced the sections of Kenton, Herman, Thad/Mel, Duke Pearson, and others, his instincts are to rise above the section when things get hot. In this case, you just have to imagine the sections riffing beneath him.
Drummer Ed Soph has paid his big band dues as well in a few of the aforementioned outfits, as well as a dozens of small groups and hundreds of sessions. Like the co-leader, he is precise, confident, and fluent in a number of styles. Whether playing with sticks, mallets, brushes or his bare hands, his perfect time give fiery propulsion this group even at low volumes. Check out Samba Du Nancy, not just for the imaginative solo which kicks it off (and illustrates numerous percussion techniques), but serves as a lesson in post-Chick-Corea Latin drumming. I can’t think of another drummer who plays so much, yet makes every stroke count.
Rounding out the rhythm section are Bill Mays on piano and Rufus Reid on bass. I know I said earlier that Marvin Stamm’s lines were strictly crafted for trumpet, so it is a gas to hear Bill Mays begin a solo by quoting a long phrase Marvin used to end his chorus, and then transpose it, convolute it, play it with locked hands, etc. All these tunes, to my knowledge, are originals, several penned by Stamm and Mays. Bassist Rufus Reid contributes the closer, The Meddler, the longest cut on the CD. This is one of the more complex blues heads you are likely to encounter in your lifetime (unless you play trumpet like Marvin Stamm). This tune sounds hand crafted for the group. Rufus, by the way, plays the same great bass he has been known for all these years, but was a tad under-recorded here. Mays tosses in a few Nashville-worthy tricks which will put a smile on your face. Jon Abercrombie, who pulls guitar duty on half the tunes here, seems to really enjoy taking this blues in several directions. His contributions throughout are fresh and he seems to fit right in.
The sound is quite good for a live recording. Apparently Birdland has invested in its own recording equipment which should result in a whole slew of “Live at Birdland” recordings. As I mentioned, Rufus is slightly under-recorded, so often his pulse is felt, but the big sound he produces is certainly not heard on this mix. He gets some nice solo space, so keep that hand on the volume dial when he gets his turn.
This is a pretty fresh sound, and quite unlike much of the small-group jazz I have heard recently, which is a good thing. Trumpet fans will especially enjoy Stamm’s considerable technique, and drummers will marvel at Soph’s huge bag of tricks. The casual listener will hear a bunch of really good musicians having a ball playing together. That should be enough for all of us.
Reviewed by Jack Bowers
Studio recordings are nice, but if you want to know how jazz musicians really work together, place them in front of an audience. For the Marvin Stamm/Ed Soph Quartet, that’s no problem. This is a working unit comprised of gentlemen who not only play together regularly but are temperamentally and musically compatible, to boot. In other words, the level of rapport and mutual respect is unusually high, even when the group welcomes a guest artist, as it does guitarist John Abercrombie on four of the eight selections on Live at Birdland.
Stamm describes the quartet as a co-op, which means that everyone not only has a voice in choosing the music but also is an indispensable member of the team, collectively and individually. Everyone works together, everyone is given plenty of space to improvise, and, most important, everyone does so quite well. Stamm, a widely underrated trumpeter, is invariably reliable throughout, and he’s especially persuasive (as is pianist Bill Mays) on bassist Rufus Reid’s spirited bossa When She Smiles Upon Your Face (I’d have led with that one).
Smiles is one of two engaging songs by Reid; the other, The Meddler, is a funky blues that closes the set on an amiable note. The all-original program includes two numbers each by Stamm (Samba du Nancy, Two as One) and Mays (In Her Arms, Gemma’s Eyes), Ted Nash’s Waltz for Mia, and the easygoing curtain-raiser, Svensson, written by the great Swedish composer/pianist Lars Jansson. Mays’ unaccompanied piano launches Svensson, while Soph has a two-minute rendezvous with the impetuous Nancy before the others take their turn.
Abercrombie makes it a quintet on the ballad In Her Arms and happy Waltz for Mia, showing his splendid chops on extended solos, as he does on Gemma’s Eyes and The Meddler. Two as One is another ballad (with tasteful extemporizing by Stamm, on flugel, Mays and Reid), and even though When She Smiles sounds like it should be from the title, it’s not. The mood is Latin, the melody irresistible, the tempo upbeat, the input by all hands exemplary. Gemma’s Eyes is a medium-tempo charmer whose introductory passage is vaguely reminiscent of the standard I Can Dream, Can’t I? Again, Stamm is quite impressive on flugel.
A charming and colorful concert date with first-rate sound, even though it’s weighted slightly toward the rhythm section, especially pianist Mays. While Stamm and Co. aren’t known as superstars, there’s not much to separate them from those who are. In other words, they play pretty good. But don’t take my word for it—listen with your own ears.
The Brass Herald Magazine – England
Review by Pete Martin, Deputy Editor of Jazz UK
This is the second CD from the quartet led jointly by trumpeter Marvin Stamm and drummer Ed Soph and these tracks, selected from the group’s appearance at Birdland in September 2003, display their compatibility. Stamm is evidently at ease, producing a string of impressive solos, with Soph ever attentive, contributing appropriate light and shade, while providing an irresistible pulse for pianist Bill Mays and bassist Rufus Reid.
Since the 1960s, of course, Marvin Stamm has been recognized as one of the foremost trumpeters in New York, one of those rare and much-admired musicians equally at home leading a section, soaring around in the upper register, or – as on this recording-playing small-group jazz in front of an appreciative audience.
What’s more, despite the all-round excellence of the quartet, the marvelous Marvin can’t help being the main man here, and it would be hard to fault his work; not only is this an absorbing performance in its own right, but it adds up to a little master class in contemporary jazz playing. On both trumpet and flugelhorn, Stamm maintains a warm and rich sound in all registers, and indeed the extent of his range allows him to build up drama and tension in his solos. However, he is a strong enough improviser to develop concise statements without resorting to gratuitous showmanship and in fact the sense that he has power in reserve, so to speak, simply adds authority to his playing.
Above all, though, I couldn’t help admiring the remarkable fluency which has long been characteristic of Marvin Stamm’s work. Early on, his solo on his own piece Samba du Nancy is a brilliant example, with long, sinuous phrases seeming to flow effortlessly from his horn, and, on the following track, In Her Arms, he displays the same balanced poise, making light of the 5/4 time signature.
On this track and on three others, the group is joined by guitarist John Abercrombie, who sensibly avoids the ‘star guest’ role, preferring to add his distinctive voice to the succession of moods and textures that the band creates. Indeed, I found Bill Mays’ In Her Arms to be the most memorable of the eight originals here, a piece which seems perfectly realized through the concentrated efforts of these admirable players.
Reviewed by Jim Santella
Introduced as the Marvin Stamm Quartet at Birdland on September 11 and 13, 2003, this tight ensemble interprets straight-ahead jazz from several different contemporary sources, including dynamic originals by the band’s trumpeter, pianist, and bassist. Stamm brings a unique and personal sound to the forum, allowing his tone to waver and fluctuate with a sensitive frame of reference. Frail, light, and airy, the trumpeter’s tone evokes understatement and quiet passion. Stamm releases his emotions in a profound manner, ensuring that power never consumes his delicate demeanor. Even as he builds his interpretations to a higher climax, the trumpeter maintains a fluid appearance and downplays his role.
But this performance reflects a team approach. Ed Soph introduces Samba du Nancy with hands on drums in an informal affair that invokes myriad textures. Solemn and devotional, he prepares the quartet for an exotic escape toward festive celebrations. They deliver this one with a quiet fire and a cohesive sparkle.
Guitarist John Abercrombie joins the band for four selections. His pensive lines add a smooth, contemporary charm to the session, while inviting denser harmonies. With a vibrant guitar tone that contrasts sharply with Stamm’s feathery touch and airy sound, Abercrombie gives the session a considerable lift. His interpretations contain lyrical passages that drive the ensemble on solid ground.
The high point comes with Rufus Reid’s The Meddler, a driving, hard bop blues that tears your heart out, opens your eyes, and sizzles with hip excitement. Abercrombie soars with gutsy conversational integrity, Bill Mays drives a swingin’ affair, Stamm adds a guarded theme over a powerful rhythm section, Reid stretches out with an invigorating stand-up bass interlude, and the band proudly displays its love for the passion that underlies mainstream jazz.
by Michelle Labieniec Despard
Musicians: Marvin Stamm, trumpet and flugelhom; Bill Mays, piano (Time: 70:01)
Selections: By Myself; You and the Night and the Music; The Lamp is Low; The Widow in the Window; Judy; Beautiful Love; Waltz for Mia; You Must Believe in Spring; Airegin; Madrugada; Con Alma.
By Ourselves is a duo recording by trumpeter and flugelhornist, Marvin Stamm and pianist, Bill Mays. This is a fine recording where every note is clean, clear and beautifully articulated. Each phrase is carefully presented with the most exquisite taste. These two fine musicians demonstrate the true artistry of duo playing which in itself poses many challenges. When there are only two musicians, each person is very exposed and carries more responsibility. Duo settings are interesting because very often depending on the instrumentation, the full rhythm section is not present, as in the case here, leaving much freedom and space. These may be challenges for most but is not apparent in the rapport between Stamm and Mays.
Both have been session musicians for most of their careers. Marvin Stamm has worked and recorded with the likes of Stan Kenton’s Orchestra, Woody Herman, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis and Benny Goodman. Mays on the other hand accompanied Sarah Vaughn and Al Jarreau along with countless others. The two met while playing with their own bands and kept promising to play with each other. They appeared on each other’s recordings and finally found themselves able to devote time to a duo which eventually led to this recording.
This CD has some very interesting little gems on it making the musical choices somewhat eclectic. Thoughtful and sensitive describe standards such as By Myself, Beautiful Love, Con Alma and You and the Night and the Music. The music is tastefully crafted between these two artists. A clever twist to The Lamp is Low, is the use of Maurice Ravel’s Miroirs as an introduction. A little tryst with the classical venue. Bill Mays also charms us with two very nice originals entitled Judy and Madrugada which is a Latin tune. A special tune that strikes me is Kenny Wheeler’s The Widow in the Window. Both Stamm and Mays thank him in the liner notes for writing “one of the most haunting ballads ever,” and I would have to agree.
Whether you are an avid jazz fan or a newcomer to jazz, this CD would be an excellent addition to your collection. The instrumentation lends itself to an almost classical venue while remaining very listener friendly. It is wonderful to hear such a class act communicate on equal ground and fully demonstrate the beauty of their instruments. The music unfolds organically the way it should in performance. This recording is the result of not only outstanding musicians and professionalism in duo form but also demonstrates two good friends coming together for the simple joy of music making.
by David Dupont
Studio veteran Marvin Stamm did time with Thad and Mel’s big band and numerous other groups. His artistry here, with just the ultra-tasty piano of Bill Mays in support, belies the notion of the soulless studio hack. Stamm and Mays for that matter have soul to match their ample technique. Stamm’ tone is full and luscious, and his lines are not so much bursting with notes as they are bursting with melody. And Mays, ever the willing accomplice, complements Stamm’s torrents with dancing lines of his own. Mays’ puckish and wry solos balance Stamm’s offerings, which are full of ardour. Mays is also a sympathetic accompanist, as on You and the Night… where he plays figures that seem to complete the trumpeter’s thoughts. The duo selects apt material that offers both the melodic and harmonic resources that merit extrapolation, including the lovely ballad, Judy, and the atmospheric Madrugada, both by Mays, and Kenny Wheeler’ evocative The Widow in the Window.
This is one of those sessions where it’s hard to pick out highlights because everything is so tasty.
by Ken Dryden
Trumpeter and flugelhornist Marvin Stamm grew frustrated with the lack of recording opportunities, so in 1999 he began the Marstam label to distribute his work. On this duo date, he’s joined by pianist Bill Mays, someone he has worked with often; the results are consistently outstanding. Stamm’s captivating sound on either horn is matched by his perfect intonation, plus the fact that he allows the music breathing room even on the most uptempo numbers. Mays’ creative approach to the piano brings new life to even the most familiar songs. Following Stamm’s unaccompanied introduction to By Myself, both he and Mays demonstrate the kind of give-and-take in supporting one another that is essential in a duo setting. In addition to another Howard Dietz & Arthur Schwartz, a lovely take of You and the Night and the Music, the CD includes The Lamp is Low, with a playful Mays introduction and some of Stamm’s most lyrical trumpet playing; a romp through Sonny Rollins’ Airegin, featuring Stamm’s rich flugelhorn; and a warm rendition of Dizzy Gillespie’s Con Alma. Mays also contributed two originals: Judy, with its tricky changes; and Madrugada, a beautiful Latin ballad co-written with Alfred Kwiatek. Jazz just doesn’t get any better in a duo setting.
by Peter La Barbera
Marvin Stamm has been around a while. Still, he’s not a jazz household name, though he ought to be. Many listeners may remember him from the Kenton days when he played with the mellophonium orchestra. Since than he’s been involved with many aspects of playing music, from the studio to the stage and has gained a considerable amount of experience. This CD, in collaboration with the wonderful pianist, Bill Mays, is a sort of culmination of where music has taken Marvin Stamm to date.
Frankly, I’d not personally heard much of Stamm in the last fifteen years or so, until hearing these two recent CDs. While, more than the other horns, there are many prominent jazz players on trumpet: Roy Hargrove, Tom Harrell, Claudio Roditi and Wynton Marsalis just to barely skim the surface, Marvin’s name should be included with these contemporaries. His playing is articulate, fluid and has the full range of all the emotions embedded into his style. On this duo recording with Bill Mays he shows us his virtuosity and appeal that’s a joy to experience.
I think Mr. Stamm’s identification is clearly labeled during the introduction with the first forty-three seconds of By Myself. This unaccompanied moment is the type of music that music teachers tell their students to listen carefully to before they dissect it and learn it note by note.
The choice of tunes for their musical venture is interesting and varied. You and the Night and the Music is respectful to the beauty of the original line. Bill Mays takes an adventurous and swinging exploration solo and feeds a balance of tasty chords to give Marvin room to add his creative impressions to this evergreen.
The Lamp is Low is one of those haunting melodies that, given the right day and circumstances, can reduce me to tears. The collaboration between these two stellar artists is uncanny. Good duo playing in jazz probably goes beyond the musicianship. There must be a special bond or friendship and understanding that must intertwine with the music. You get that sense in listening to this interpretation.
The Widow in the Window is a haunting original by Kenny Wheeler. Bill Mays demonstrates his writing skills with an infectious line titled, Judy. He weaves a pleasurable solo quoting some Benny Golson and I’m Confessin’ that I Love You into the mix of the solo.
Marvin treats Victor Young’s Beautiful Love with a very gentle respect and tenderness and does not stray too far from the melody in exploring. For me, it takes something special to undertake this and making it still sound like jazz.
Waltz For Mia by Ted Nash sounds like it was written around the chords of I Thought About You and offers some nice exchanges between Stamm and Mays.
Marvin’s exquisite tone and control are very evident in You Must Believe in Spring. His approach is beyond beauty and almost poetic while Mays does most of the inner searching with layers of remarkable alternates to the original melody line. Marvin concludes by going deeper within hiself to continue to search for the essence of this timeless Michel Legrand original.
Airegin, the Sonny Rollins masterpiece, swings hard without the gymnastics. Another very pretty line by Bill Mays, Madrugada is a quiet moment with much of a Brazilian feeling. The set ends with a tribute to the master; Con Alma by Dizzy Gillespie is played with sentiment and concludes a set of great duo performance by Stamm and Mays.
by Lee Prosser
Marvin Stamm, trumpet and flugelhorn. Ed Soph, drums. Bill Mays, piano. Rufus Reid, bass. On tracks 3, 6, and 8, Dave Liebman, soprano & tenor saxophone.
It is a pleasure listening to the work of Marvin Stamm, anytime! Stamm is a musician’s musician, performing flawlessly on his trumpet and flugelhorn. He has been around for a while, as the saying goes, and during that time has performed with such artists as Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Duke Pearson, Benny Goodman, Bill Evans, Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson, Charles Mingus, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Patrick Williams, Michel Legrand, Frank Foster, Paul Desmond, George Benson, and also with vocalists Barbra Streisand, Lena Horn, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and the Rolling Stones. Stamm is also a gifted teacher and mentor.
His new CD release is perfect and the production values are very high, making this one of the finest CDs of its type created this year! The Stamm/Soph Project is the title, and the collection contains 74:15 minutes of the nicest contemporary jazz to come down the pike in a long time!
Selections include Three And One, Nardis, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, Lament, Bick’s Bag, No Hurry, Joy Spring, Hip Hop Blues,Who’s ‘At Talkin’?, and the memorable Willard Robison song titled Old Folks. Each song reveals in solo performance why Marvin Stamm is considered one of the great living jazz performers!
Stamm’s solo work on Miles Davis’ masterpiece, Nardis, is without peer and perfect in every note; such a performance is worthy of airplay time, frequently. Lars Jansson’s Hip Hop Blues is given a unique spin by Stamm and his group. This group loves what it is doing and shares that feeling with its jazz listeners!
For a jazz pianist who always performs well, Bill Mays puts his winning touch on each of these selections. Mays has two compositions on this CD, Bick’s Bag and No Hurry, two fine jazz songs that allow the jazz listener to become part of the listening experience which is Mays — his piano work dazzles, whether done in straight-forward jazz tones or in complex simplicity of emotion. Mays is one of the contemporary greats in jazz piano. A true jazz artist of the piano, Mays is a welcome addition to any performance!
Ed Soph on drums and Rufus Reid on bass need no introduction to the jazz community at large, for their work is well known and always entertaining and innovative! The same applies to the many talents of saxophonist Dave Liebman. As a group, this is a tour de force of great jazz instrumental playing! This CD is jazz entertainment at its best, and most enjoyable!
If you like the jazz trumpet of Marvin Stamm and the jazz piano of Bill Mays, you will want to purchase a copy of this CD as soon as possible. If somebody asked me for a gift to give somebody who is new to jazz, I would suggest this CD, for it has everything jazz has to offer, and then some!
Excellent! Five stars! Highly original! A classic in the making, and the selection titled Old Folks earns its place among jazz original performances with its unique shadings of sound!
Jazz Improv Magazine
by Ray Hoffman
Musicians: Marvin Stamm, trumpet and flugelhom; Ed Soph drums; Bill Mays, piano; Rufus Reid, bass, David Liebman, soprano and tenor saxophone.
Selections: Three And One; Nardis; The Night Has A Thousand Eyes; Lament; Bick’s Bag; No Hurry; Joy Spring; Hip Hop Blues; Who’s ‘At Talkin’; Old Folks
“Nothing is forced. Everything is natural”
Marvin Stamm is an exceptional trumpet and flugelhom player. Brass players know it. Jazz insiders know it. Musicians involved in the New York studio scene since the mid 1960s know it. Maybe you already know it, as well. After all, Stamm was trumpet soloist with Stan Kenton’s Orchestra and Woody Herman in the mid-1960s. Then when he settled in New York, he recorded and performed solos with one of the best big bands of the era, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. And he became a first call studio player, recording with Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson, Charles Mingus, the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, touring with Sinatra, and so on
Opening up with a song from the Thad Jones library, Stamm and bassist Rufus Reid magnificently state this theme at a medium clip. Following an inventive solo by Mays, Stamm, on trumpet, dances adroitly through the changes. Stamm takes a uniquely pensive approach on Nardis – taking it as a ballad, stretching the notes, and giving us an especially lovely presentation of his warm sound.
One of the appealing aspects of The Stamm/ Soph Project is David Liebman’ s performance on tenor sax. He has played soprano more often than tenor in the last few years. On The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, Liebman turns in a number of choruses of surging, energetic, toe tapping, improvisation-reaching from the bottom of the horn-to some screaming ideas in the most upper register. Stamm follows with an equally compelling solo. His eighth note lines are driving, while at the same time floating lightly over the up-tempo groove provided by the rhythm section. Nothing is forced. Everything is natural. Ideal intonation and crystal clear articulation are staples of Stamm’ s in-the-moment creations.
The band gets bluesy on Bill Mays Bick’s Bag. Stamm is right at home-bending notes, and offering a helping of soul. Mays is a sophisticated, powerful improviser, whether with singles lines or two-fisted gusto. Mays is a master of employing surprising syncopation and cross rhythms throughout his accompaniment and solos. His support and spontaneous ideas are a wonderful spark during Stamm’s soloing. Another highlight of Stamm’s soloing on this CD is his flight on his own Who’s At Talkin’?, a straight ahead up-tempo blues.
The groove on Mays’ No Hurry is a laid back Latin-funk. Stamm purveys his big round sound on flugelhorn, as he leaps and lopes lithely up and down the horn.
On Joy Spring, Stamm is back on trumpet, taking this Clifford Brown chestnut at a brisk tempo. A unique touch is the way Mays plays counter-lines to Stamm’s solo, sans walking bass for a couple of choruses. One of the highlights (among so many) on the album is Stamm’s performance on the closing number, the compelling standard Old Folks.
The Stamm/Soph Project is an outstanding recording in so many ways. The balanced selection of songs include a palette of well-known jazz tunes (Joy Spring, Nardis), standards (Old Folks, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes), and originals by Stamm (Who’s At Talkin’?) and pianist Mays (Bick’s Bag, No Hurry). Each of the rhythm section players contributes significantly to the cohesiveness of the performance. Each soloist has ample opportunity to express himself in a supportive and swinging environment. Ed Soph, Stamm’s co-leader on drums (he hails from the background of North Texas State University and is a Woody Herman alumnus) provides exactly appropriate and tasteful support and drive throughout the recording-no matter what the groove. The sound quality is superb.
Stamm is a consummate trumpet player, with a relaxed confidence, and he demonstrates that we are listening to a vastly experienced improviser. If truth is what jazz is all about, I think it is essential that we include Marvin Stamm whenever there is discussion of today’s leading jazz trumpet players. This is truly a work of seasoned and inspired improvisers.
The All-Music Guide
by Ken Dryden
Trumpeter and fluegelhornist Marvin Stamm, having grown frustrated with his lack of recording opportunities as a leader during the 1990s, created his Marstam label to distribute his work. This CD, released simultaneously with his duo CD with Bill Mays (By Ourselves), features him in a quartet co-led by drummer Ed Soph. Thad Jones’ Three and One is highlighted by the leader’s rich trumpet and bassist Rufus Reid’s solo. Reid’s unaccompanied introduction to Nardis sets up a very unusual arrangement, in which the leader’s mesmerizing trumpet is backed by Mays’ imaginative piano playing. A delightful Joy Spring and a moody interpretation of Willard Robison’s Old Folks are also important facets of this CD. Stamm also penned the furious blues Who’s ‘at Talkin’?, which includes some of his best playing on the CD. The talented saxophonist David Liebman sits in on three selections: playing tenor on a lengthy excursion through The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, with the leader on fluegelhorn; on soprano during Mays’ somewhat mysterious No Hurry and the funky Hip Hop Blues. Stamm’s playing on both horns is the CD equivalent of a master class for horn players. Highly recommended!
by Jason Bivins
Long-time partners Stamm and Soph hook up with heavies Rufus Reid, Bill Mays, and Dave Liebman for a rousing program of mainstream music. The general disposition is as sunny as you might expect, and the session has a palpable sense of enjoyment too it. (This, by the way, is due in large to the presence of Reid, whose energy always comes through loud and clear.)
There’s nothing here that’s really unpredictable – the arrangements and the general parameters of the music are as familiar as old shoes -but the session remains satisfying by virtue of its exuberance and the level of communication between all the players (particularly the co-leaders). Soph, who often has his drums strangely buried in the mix, plays with a crackling energy that never spills over into bad taste. He is particularly effective in providing ongoing commentary to the soloists, and his vigour redeems the otherwise forgettable Hip-Hop Blues. Stamm’s playing is unhurried and inviting – he brings a winning impressionism to Nardis and lends this same quality to his moving introduction to J. J Johnson’s Lament. But he can also hang in a more frenzied setting as well, as he does on the juiced-up Thousand Eyes, where he uses his bright flugelhorn to contrast with Liebman’s hard-charging tenor tone.
Speaking of Liebman, whose presence on Jazz albums now seems roughly analogous to that of Kevin Bacon in films, he sounds in customarily great form. On Thousand Eyes and Hip-Hop Blues, he stirs the pot with gusto and lifts the energy level of the group. But he shows his cool on the Mays original, No Hurry, spooling out a fine soprano solo. Mays himself impresses as well, bringing a kind of mischief to these tunes, inserting a wry note here or an unexpected jab there. And Reid is fabulous throughout, combining light melodicism with heavy bottom end.
As mentioned above, this recording isn’t about taking any great chances; it’s about amiability and energy. Both of those it has in abundance.
by Jack Bowers
Musicians: Marvin Stamm, trumpet, flugelhorn; Stefan Karlsson, piano; Tom Warrington, bass; Eliot Zigmund, drums.
Selections: Smilin’ Eyes; But Not for Me; The Very Thought of You; Illusions; Close to Home; A Lick or Two; The Tree; But Beautiful; A Rosy Tone (60:03).
The “invisible man” returns. Trumpeter Marvin Stamm, who played with big bands led by Woody Herman, Stan Kenton and Thad Jones / Mel Lewis, among others, before vanishing in the early ’70s into the wilderness of studio work in New York City, is playing Jazz again — has been for some time now — and that is good news indeed for those of us who appreciate the sort of “elegance” he invariably espouses. Indeed, there’s no more appropriate word than elegant to describe this quartet date on which Stamm and his world–class rhythm section traverse two of his sunny compositions, two more by pianist Stefan Karlsson, one each by Dennis Dotson and Lars Jansson, and a trio of delightful standards from the Great American Songbook.
Stamm reminds me of a number of trumpeters who always come to play but seldom rank high in the “popularity polls,” solid workmen like Bobby Shew, Carl Saunders, Chuck Findley, Don Rader, Jeff Jarvis, Greg Gisbert and (overseas) Bert Joris, Peter Asplund, Ack van Rooyen and Jan Wessels. Like them, he may be uncelebrated but has marvelous chops and gets the job done.
Stamm is also generous and confident enough to give everyone ample room to blow, and in fact solos first only on Karlsson’s Illusions and Dotson’s Close to Home. For added variety, Stamm plays flugel on Home, Karlsson’s Smilin’ curtain–raiser and Jansson’s The Tree, muted trumpet on the introduction to the Gershwins’ But Not for Me. And although several listenings have led to no definitive conclusion, the impression here is that two trumpets may have been overdubbed to state the melody on the first of his originals, A Lick or Two. The underrated Karlsson comps with his usual aplomb and makes the most of every chance to solo while Warrington and drummer Eliot Zigmund keep the rhythmic compass vibrant and steady. And speaking of steady, that’s another well–chosen word with which to sum up this consistently admirable session
By Scott Yanow
Marvin Stamm, a fine hard bop trumpeter with an appealing tone of his own, has been a valuable asset to many important big bands (including Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, George Gruntz, Louie Bellson and Maria Schneider), worked for years in the studios of New York, and since 1987 has primarily played jazz. For his release on the new Troppe Note label (1350 E. Flamingo Road, #308, Las Vegas, Nevada 89119), Stamm is heard in prime form playing with a quartet also including pianist Stefan Karlsson, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Eliot Zigmund.
The music is essentially modern hard bop. Stamm is at his best on a medium-tempo version of But Not For Me (building up his solo to some blistering double-time runs), a slow heart-felt The Very Thought Of You and on two of his pieces which are based on common chord changes: A Lick Or Two (“Indiana”) and A Rosy Tone (“In A Mellotone”)
The other originals (two by Karlsson and one apiece from Lars Jansson and Dennis Dotson) are less interesting melody-wise although they offer stimulating chord changes for the soloists. Stefan Karlsson is a swinging modern mainstream player who at times recalls early Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans, while Tom Warrington and Eliot Zigmund (still best known for his association with Evans) are excellent in support.
Long underrated despite his obvious abilities, perhaps Marvin Stamm will start achieving some of the recognition long due him with the release of this excellent and easily recommended CD