Stew Cutler


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Quality fusion didn't disappear after the '70s, but it did become somewhat harder to find thanks to all the A&R people who have spent so much time obsessing over either smooth jazz artists or very straight-ahead Young Lions of the hard bop and/or post-bop variety. Regardless, worthwhile fusion discs are still being recorded; you just have to know where to find them, and one CD that fits that description is Stew Cutler's Trio/Live. Recorded at November 2004 gigs in Erie, PA, Syracuse, NY, and Rochester, NY, this live album tends to favor the type of meaty fusion that is way too rock-influenced for jazz purists and bop snobs and way too intelligent for smooth jazz/NAC stations. The fact that Trio/Live (which occasionally veers into mildly avant-garde territory) is rock-influenced does not mean that it is not jazz-oriented; Cutler is far from a jazz purist, but his mentality on these performances is still that of a jazz improviser -- and the guitarist is well served by influences that include John Scofield, Mike Stern, Bill Frisell, and John Abercrombie (among others). This is an album of many moods; parts of the disc are highly cerebral and abstract, especially "Mourning Dance" and "Left Behind." But Cutler (who forms a cohesive trio with electric bassist Gene Torres and drummer Garry Bruer) tends to be more groove-minded on instrumentals that range from the congenial "Whisper" to the blues-drenched "East River Delta" to the intriguing "Yippie-Tai-Yi-Yo" (which has an airiness that suggests Pat Metheny and Jim Hall but also hints at country). Trio/Live is slightly inconsistent -- some performances hold up better than others -- but more often than not, this release paints an attractive picture of what Cutler has to offer as a fusion guitarist.

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