John Stein

Hustle Up!

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This Knitting Factory debut (Tightly Knit is a subsidiary) of guitarist John Stein is a bit of a mixed bag. With his own quartet that includes pianist Bruce Torff, bassist Marshall Woods, and drummer Les Harris, Sr., and a pair of guests in organist David Liminia and alternate drummer Dave Hurst on three cuts, Stein runs through a program of mostly original material that is littered with curious choices for interpretive reading. The set opens with the trio playing a completely snoozy rendition of "Poor Butterfly." Given the tune is a ballad, and Stein is not known for being an overdriven player anyway, but here, with his rhythm section almost absent, he slinks along the melody line in a straighter-than-narrow fashion and indulges his own highly developed harmonic intuition for only about eight bars while letting the rhythm section keep a monotonous pace throughout. This is a curious way to open a recording. Things get redeemed a bit over the next three tracks with the other players, on the bluesy swing mood and intensely lyrical and angular arpeggios Stein plays on "Eleanor's Folly." There is also a bit of stunning interplay in the middle section between guitar and organ. On the title track, a straight-ahead post-bop swinger, Stein does what he does best and creates a shimmering melody that cooks along a harmonic line as it is accented by the rhythm section so he can interject some of those legendary fills of his. Having the organ backdrop fleshes out the groove a bit, making it all fleet, sleek, and shiny. The rest is a mixed bag as well, where Stein alternates between snoozy indulgent ballads and smoking innovative guitar-o-nomics with his quartet, who don't cut loose often enough in the recording session the way they do live.

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