Louis Stewart

Overdrive: Live at the Tron, Edinburgh

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There is no doubt that Irish jazz guitarist Louis Stewart is one of the all-time greats, and it is obvious from the first notes he plays on any occasion. Quick witted, clean and clear, original, inventive, steeped in tradition, astonishing at most turns and only remarkable on the others, the only reason most of you don't know him is that he works in Europe, barely visiting the continental America's during his five decades of performing. This live club date at the Tron Jazz Cellar in Edinburgh, Scotland shows Stewart at the height of his powers during a set of well-worn standards, brought to life by this brilliant plectrist. As most use energy as a fuel for the others, or as a flashy pyrotechnical show, Stewart has no problem playing quickly. In fact, for him it all seems so effortless when he plays a straight melody on the well-worn "All the Things You Are," the rousing "Oleo" with its tricky changes played perfectly, or the very fast, never flustered "Stompin' at the Savoy," where he seems really in his element. Did it take any time for him to warm up? In contrast to the fleet fingered display of virtuosity, Stewart also likes to change things up a bit. He strips down the melody of "Lady Be Good," extrapolates slightly on the basic theme, and then stretches out the song in his solo spotlight, swings the normally balladic "Body and Soul," and fattens the tempo for the usually relaxed "Walkin'." Ronnie Rae is the bassist, and the Edinburgh native and regular accompanist for vocalist Fionna Duncan acquits himself well on this recording, especially taking the lead for "Walkin." The appropriate closer "My Shining Hour" closes this set of music that showcases Stewart wonderfully, and is likely the best, certainly most accessible recording of his relatively small discography.

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