Tim Stevens Trio
All compositions by Tim Stevens and Copyright Control
Total time: 61 mins
Tim Stevens piano
'Nine Open Questions' RF068
‘Australian jazz only gets better and there are two very fine recent CDs from younger artists to show it...Another Melbourne Tim offers a mellower, more lyrical vision. The new album from the Tim Stevens Trio is called Nine Open Questions (Rufus) and, if you know Stevens’s solo piano album, Freehand (Rufus, 2002), this is like the full flowering of a seedling. The music is still intimate, but the range of colours is obviously greater, and you hear Stevens’s imaginative ideas being developed simultaneously on several planes in concert with his colleagues. Oddly enough, the other two members of Stevens’s trio — Ben Robertson (bass) and Dave Beck (drums) — are also the other two members of Wilson’s trio. If you hear both albums, you can marvel at their adaptability.' Andrew Ford Australian Financial Review
'Melbourne-based pianist Tim Stevens recorded two impressive albums with the Browne-Haywood-Stevens trio in the late 1990s, followed by a solo outing two years ago. His latest album finds him exploring his own compositions in the trio setting again with bassist Ben Robertson and drummer Dave Beck, and it's his strongest, most satisfying recording yet. There is a lot to like about Stevens' own playing: he has a lovely touch and achieves a natural, rolling flow in his improvisations. With Stevens, it's never about showing off technique, it's always about establishing and exploring the moods suggested by the works. Robertson and Beck are fully attuned to his approach. Both contribute their share of ideas but never crowd the pianist for space.' Adrian Jackson, The Bulletin
Perhaps it’s fitting this delightfully and restfully pleasing CD is recognised as being neglected in the sense that it has been kept to myself for too long. It went to Wangaratta’s Festival of Jazz with us last year to hear the trio and it’s questions have been pondered since on long and short trips and in reflective times in our castle. There are no answers, but many hours of the pleasure that comes as Stevens and his collaborators, Ben Robertson on bass and Dave Beck on drums, soothe and calm the restless soul with their sublime artistry. The nine original tunes emphasise Stevens’ growth as a composer and pianist and the empathy the trio has established. Michael Foster Canberra Times
...is another piano trio date, but this time the geographical setting switches from the wide open spaces of Texas to the great sweeping plains of Australia. According to the booklet notes written by the leader, this edition has been together only since Stevens moved back to Melbourne from Sydney in 200But this interaction sometimes borders on the telepathic and owes strong allegiance to the trios captained by the great Bill Evans. All of the compositions are from the pianist and all hold enough musical meat and potatoes to keep one listening constantly. Of all the threesomes reviewed in this column [including Harold Mabern, Ralph Sutton, David Hazeltine], these fellows are the most integrated and intertwined in their music making. With the distribution of this disc handled by Universal, hopefully this excellent outing will reach a larger market than normal. Heartily recommended.' Larry Hollis Cadence USA
'Magic! The first tune was an original that has not yet been recorded. It started with solo piano from Tim Stevens, and then Dave Beck started playing snare with his hands before progressing to sticks. Once Ben Robertson joined in on bass we were enchanted. The brushwork on Three's a Quorum was very delicate. The final tune was Encore: Chaser: it left us on a high. You may recall I reviewed this CD in the December 200JAS newsletter: it's available from Rufus Records Cat. RF06When I listened to the CD I had imaged these musicians as much older due to their superior skills. I was blown away when I finally heard them live to find out how young they all were.' Joy Mestroni JAS Live gig review May 2005
'I first heard Tim Stevens in Victoria, with bassist Nick hayward and drummer Allan Browne. "Lucid, lyrical, shining," I thought, narrowly avoiding an excess of alliteration. For a while, Stevens led a superb, audience-pleasing trio in Sydney. Back in Melbourne, he has developed a similar rapport with the musicians heard here.
'The piano has been recorded (at Southbank) with a rounded sound, and this suits the rather pearly aura summoned by Stevens's beautiful touch, and indeed the material. There is much contrapuntal movement, but it is never ostentatiously, "two-handed". rather, it is thoughtful, organic, freely running.
'If you wanted a lot of space in the music, but with a solid foundation and a handsome sound, bassist Ben Robertson, heard here, would be a prime consideration. Drummer dave Beck is of the same school. The trio dine together each Monday, talk music, play.
'That's what it sounds like. Nothing is forced. There are time changes, but the tempos stay around "medium-up". yet the rhythmic impetus is intense and lifting.
'This engrossing experience can be heard at the Sound Lounge (Seymour Centre) at the CD launch on April 2.' John Clare SMH
'Even in a country so richly endowed with superior jazz pianists, Tim Stevens is one of those at the very top of the pile. The title of this new album, Nine Open Questions, says much about the attitude implicit in his music-making: the nine compositions do not have a "right" way of being played; they are "open" to the input of bassist Ben Robertson and drummer Dave Beck, and the reinterpretation of Stevens, himself, the composer.
Yes, this is the point of all jazz composition, but ego often obstructs the path like a fallen tree, tripping up the best of intentions in cartwheeling displays of technique, and in imposition of the leader/composer's will.
A pivotal aspect of the beauty in Stevens' playing is the humility. His sole preoccupation is communication, in which impressing the listener has no part. This was evident in the precursors to this trio: firstly Browne, Haywood, Stevens, and then the pianist's short-lived Sydney band with Simon Barker and Mark Lau. (Stevens moved back to Melbourne in 2002.) Current drummer Dave Beck was an unexpected collaborator for Stevens to choose, given his occasional propensity to play the drums rather than the music. Here, however, his gifts for musicality and crisp precision are to the fore in an entirely sympathetic contribution. Ben Robertson's bass playing is lavishly melodic, contrasting with the leader's slightly more austere and intense style of lyricism.
The compositions have been thoughtfully crafted to promote different aspects of the trio's music, without straying too far from the water-colour shades, delicacy, pensiveness and swing that are its natural habitat.
Beautiful.' John Shand Limelight (ABC mag)
**** (Excellent, tough to prise out of the CD player)
'In short: Masterly outing sure to provide long-term pleasure.
The piano trio format is a timeless jazz fixture for the simple reason that it offers endless opportunities that belie its simplicity.
Pianist Tim Stevens brings a fresh outlook to this triangular mystery, inspired no doubt by fellow Melburnians Ben Robertson (bass) and Dave Beck (drums), masters at this kind of artistry.
If the trio fits comfortably into a venerable tradition, it is only to the extent that it is used for sublime self-expression.
Stevens' tunes are supremely melodic, but the magic lies mostly in the pianist's calm yet intense reluctance to spell things out overtly, while a nagging air of wonder pervades every note.
A final bonus comes from the bass and drum feature spots, which are taken in an ensemble context, thus blessedly relieving the listener of the sometimes disconcerting lurch of a solo being played solo.' Kenny Weir, Sunday Herald Sun 31/10/04
'Stuck in a peak hour traffic jam on a rainy day in Sydney: no end in sight. I escaped into a much better place by listening to this CD. I felt like I was in a room with this most remarkable trio. The originals from the pen of Tim Stevens who also plays a mean piano keep me in that special place while the rest of the traffic jammers were falling apart around me. Dave Beck is a master of brushes; his delicate cymbal work adds even more class to this CD. Ben Robertson is a stylish addition on acoustic bass. Recessional: that's the track that really does it for me. The CD is sometimes cool and groovy, sometimes wistful; I stay in that special place and survive another day.' Joy Mestroni Jazz Action Society
'Tim Stevens recorded a couple of splendid trio CDs with Nick Haywood and Allan Browne a few years back, but this is the first trio album under his own name, and it is a gem. There is so much to like here, including the cohesion with which Robertson and Beck combine with Stevens (including superb brushwork from Beck on several tracks), the lustrous tone that the pianist draws from his instrument, and the moods that his compositions establish.
But I think the outstanding characteristic of this set is the organic way in which the trio develops each piece from the initial statement of the melody, to a satisfying conclusion; no extravagant gestures or displays, just intelligent and thoughtful music-making. One aspect I especially enjoy is the way that the pianist and drummer continue to play through the bass solos, making them part of the flow, rather than the abrupt change of voice that can sometimes be the case.
I saw an online debate a while back, where Stevens challenged a Sydney jazz critic's preference for hearing local musicians play standards (rather than their own music), as a better test of how good they are at their craft. I thought that Stevens argued his case well with words, but this CD offers conclusive proof that he can do his most persuasive and compelling work while performing pieces of his own creation.' Rhythms December 2004
'GIVEN the quiet suggestiveness of Tim Stevens's music and the feeling that he's never one to force an idea into premature existence, it's fitting that the title of this recording refers to his nine compositions as "open questions". A young Melbourne-based pianist, Stevens has made a name for himself over the past few years as a thoughtful, reflective musician with a commanding approach to composition, harmony and space. His improvisations never sound formulaic but emerge seamlessly from melodies, full of subtle lyricism and unpredictability. This CD, with Ben Robertson on bass and Dave Beck on drums, reminds me of ECM pianist John Taylor in the way Stevens floats around the beat with a soft touch on the keys. And, like all great recordings, it only gets better with every listen.' Ashleigh Wilson The Australian
The first release from Tim Stevens since the widely acclaimed Freehand (2002), also on Rufus. Here he works with one of Australia's most gifted and versatile rhythm sections for a program of original pieces that reflects his growing distinction as a composer and pianist.
From exquisite ballads (Esj' and Recessional) via odd time (Stops on the Road to Smooth and The Little Man in his Nightshirt) to some of the more creative avenues of contemporary harmony (Commuted and The Unmistaken) this is an engaging and sustained argument for original, acoustic music, where the craft is always in service of the overall statement.
Expertly recorded by Mal Stanley, the trio sounds warm, and the level of interplay throughout is a reflection of the great empathy of the three musicians. The commitment shown by Robertson and Beck to this challenging material grants rich rewards to the astute listener, while at the same time the music remains entirely accessible.