Tim Stevens Trio
Tracks: (MP3 samples)
Total time 57.42
All compositions by Tim Stevens (Copyright Control) except 'Litanies'
(Jehan Alain, Public Domain)
Tim Stevens piano
The new album from Melbourne’s Tim Stevens Trio, Mickets is a program mostly of original compositions that seek to build on the composed and improvised repertoire the band has developed in its five years’ existence. A return to written forms does not mean a move backwards, for the benefits of having explored collective spontaneous improvisation on Three friends in winter (2005) are evident in the group’s thoughtful and attentive interplay.
This is brought to bear on the thoughtful compositions of Stevens, tunes that explore idiosyncratic harmonic structures and extend his lyrical melodic style. Whether it’s the groovy ‘Rufus redux’, kicking things off, or the more gently expressive ‘Prologue-like’, the compositions draw the band to regions of mutual exchange and varied expression. Stevens (piano), Ben Robertson (double bass) and Dave Beck (drums), draw on a rich and wide-ranging palette of instrumental sound and ensemble texture throughout the recording. ‘Our little systems’, with its more complicated written structure, gives way to challenging material for improvisation, yet the trio sounds unhurried and unflustered, working out its ideas in logical succession and developing a solid overall structure. The openness of the ballad ‘…the body desolate as a staircase’ might challenge the patience of many musicians, but Tim Stevens’ band draws maximum expression from space itself, and each sound is considered and compelling.
For those who have followed Stevens’ compositions since Nine open questions, or even his earlier albums with Browne – Haywood – Stevens (King, Dude and Dunce and Sudden in a shaft of sunlight), these things need not be so very surprising. But the development of his compositional voice and of this trio in dealing with his pieces is an ongoing process of refinement, and Mickets demonstrates that the trio is resisting any temptation to repeat itself, rather, it continues to seek challenge.
‘Stevens is an improviser of endless melodic inventiveness and seemingly inexhaustible harmonic knowledge. He is clearly a diligent student of jazz tradition, yet he eschews imitation and cliché... [This] is as instructive as it is infectious, the perfect amalgam of the cerebral and the visceral.’ Aaron Searle Music Forum
'Beautiful, buoyant...logical development and sensitive and lyrical interaction. It brings to mind Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, whose works feature changes wrought within a highly disciplined concept...Close listening to subtleties will be rewarded but such listening should be relaxed, as the music is. The sound of the trio, its textures and sonorities, is a joy in itself.
'Within a wealth of Australian piano trio music, it is singular.' John Clare, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
'There are...plenty of rewards for the attentive listener in these eight Stevens originals and the classical Litanies, by French organist/composer Jehan Alain. The player’s deep empathy helps to maintain an organic whole amid subtle, yet profound, changes of tempo and mood.
'It’s understated, individual music, with variety
and depth. In ‘Rufus Redux’ there’s a relaxed intricacy,
but plenty of rhythmic energy. The delicacy of ‘Prologue-like’
and the somber feel of ballads ‘Pray Without Ceasing’ and
‘The Body Desolate as a Staircase’ contrast with the stronger,
driving piano and bass in ‘Our Little Systems’ and ‘Sly-Pie’.'
'Tim Stevens [is] one of our most eloquent piano stylists. He has a lovely touch, a melody-aware approach to improvising, and for all his fluency, tends to edit out any superfluous gestures in his solos...These three are highly compatible musicians.' Adrian Jackson, LIMELIGHT