Thursday, July 2, 2009

John Stetch: TV Trio

Brux Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 7.2.09
Buy CD: TV Trio

Pianist John Stetch is another stealth musician: an excellent artist who isn't well known, but should be. His relative anonymity is due to the fact that he's Canadian — born in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1966 — and didn't move to New York City until '93.

Stetch started on clarinet and soon switched to sax, but during college concentrated on full-time piano studies. He earned his bachelor of music degree in Montreal, and began touring Canada: sometimes as a soloist, but usually with a trio or quartet. He garnered four Juno Award nominations and won the Prix du Jazz at the 1998 Montreal International Festival.

He has been recorded frequently by CBC, and has almost a dozen albums under his name.

This one is quite clever; Stetch selected a dozen TV theme songs from shows that he watching while growing up during the 1970s and '80s, and arranged them into jazz formats. Although the basic melodies and chord structures are maintained, none is presented in the attention-getting (read: loud and perky) style that preceded each TV program.

The result is enlightening. Most of the tunes are musically excellent: a fact not discernible when only a short segment is used as a TV show bumper. Stetch's arrangements reveal their quality.

It's fun to recognize each theme, but even more enjoyable to hear them performed by excellent musicians — Stetch is joined by bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Rodney Green — as pleasantly swinging jazz.

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