Chip Stephens Trio
I think there’s some “composition as therapy” in this collection. The liner notes talk about the recent death of Mr. Stephens’s father and a serious car accident he had five years earlier. I can respect that; I’ve worked through a few personal problems on this website and may do it again. But somehow I don’t think that’s influenced the style of Mr. Stephen’s work. I’d describe his as an urgent urban Jazz sound, a bit more melodic then the current crop of moderns, yet retaining the conceited dissonance that defines the genre.
“Syndrome” offers a heavy run of nearly in-tune piano work over a Buddy Rich-influenced drum sound; the drum spends half its time keeping proper time and the rest scurrying about like a politico in the hot seat on Meet the Press. “Someone in Love” slows it down with a guy named Joel Spencer on drums, and here he’s relaxed a bit, slowing the song to a Mid-Century Modern tempo. By “This Funny World” things are even calmer and nearly quiet. The track is completely Stephens’ work, with elegant piano and a composition slow enough that even an aging punker like me can follow what he’s doing. We rise out of this Valley of Navel Gazing and start pushing boundaries with “Chip’s Blues,” which feels almost danceable. Things are calm from here on out, the manic energy of “Syndrome” is locked carefully back in its own track, the closer “Skidoo” flows over distracted drums, the exultant piano stays firmly in sync with the rhythm, and only small excursions remind us this is Jazz — and finely elegant Jazz, at that.
Chip Stephens: facebook.com/stephens.chip