John Stowell

The Banff Sessions

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John Stowell is one of the better, but little heard, jazz guitarists on the scene today, having spent time working relentlessly through education programs, tours, and artist-in-residence status at any number of institutes over the years. During the summer of 1998, he was teaching and performing at the Banff Centre in Western Canada for a session, where he happened to run into two other Canadian jazzers. Multi-instrumentalist and longtime Canadian jazz award winner Don Thompson and Stowell decided to spend some time jamming in the Centre's studios, when longtime sideman Dave Liebman happened through and joined in on soprano sax for a few numbers. Over the course of the entirely spontaneous sessions, the players get together behind a number of standards worth hearing. Everybody from Henry Mancini to Duke to Billy Strayhorn to Miles to Antonio Carlos Jobim is represented here, with songs covering the spectrum of jazz history in some sense. Stowell's guitar is an original sound compared to a lot of jazz guitarists, who specialize in high-speed plucking and melodic lines à la Charlie Christian. Counter to this, Stowell can be heard here strolling through piece after piece barely breaking a strum but constantly managing to evoke the sense of the song. Thompson provides a good deal of the power of the music as well through his bass, and Liebman's intermittent sax work highlights the Miles Davis pieces beautifully. The performers here aren't reaching for the stars in their performance; they're relaxing and playing some solid music. It becomes an excellent piece of Sunday afternoon jazz ambience as a result.

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