It Could Be Anything
Featuring: Loren Stillman (as), Gary Versace (p), Scott Lee (b), Jeff Hirshfield (d)
BAR CODE: -
"Much has been made of Loren's youth (he is 23), especially when juxtaposed against the maturity of his music. From where I stand, it is one of the highest achievements for a musician to develop an immediately recognizable sound and/or a compositional technique, both of which Loren as done. I have compared him in this way to Greg Osby (who is 20 years older) as one of that has honed an individualistic sound and composing style. If jazz means anything, it is a musician's ability to express his or her individuality, and in this increasingly commercial world, someone who mantains their integrity while creating Art is rare.
Of the ten tracks presented here, eight are by Loren Stillman. These eight form a compositional group, are related in their intervallic makeup and compositional technique and thus present the listener with a clearer glimpse into Loren's musical mind.
Loren's music seduces without being overbearing, and, after listening to "It Could Be Anything" I hope you will agree, that is a wonderful thing to be swept away by such beautiful music." (From the liner notes)
-Budd Kopman, CD reviewer for Cadence Magazine, All About Jazz and Jazz Improv Magazine.
01. Evil Olive 7:30
02. Noushka Foo 5:12
03. A Common Thread 9:50
04. Gnu 4:21
05. Vignette: Ghost Town 1:59
06. Drawn Inward 6:29
07. Old San Juan 6:51
08. A Simple Phrase 2:26
09. I Don’t Know What We’re Doing 6:10
10. It Could Be Anything 7:08
All compositions by Loren Stillman except "I Don’t Know What We’re Doing" and "It Could Be Anything" by Scott Lee.
Recorded at Skyline Productions, April 2005.
"Jazz fans seem to be constantly debating when the best period for jazz was. That some believe that now is unequivocally the worst time for a genre now in its second century is puzzling. The arguments most often heard have to do with there being no “significant” innovations, and the predominance of high profile artists like Diana Krall and Jamie Cullum overshadowing more “serious” jazz artists.
Whether or not top-charting artists are serious is an argument for another day. But it’s inescapable fact that jazz’s marginalized position—at least in terms of CD sales—means that the greater public’s perspective on jazz is largely defined by the handful of big sellers like Krall, not to mention the predominance of reissues from the major labels. Still, one need only look to the plethora of independent labels to realize that jazz is hardly on its death bed. It’s thriving and, if not seeing grand developmental leaps, there are inescapable steps forward day-by-day, release-by-release. That a twenty-something musician like saxophonist Loren Stillman can release an album as mature, well-conceived and personal as It Could Be Anything is clear evidence that creative jazz with a difference is still being made and that it’s premature to be ringing its death-knell.
It Could Be Anything is Stillman’s fourth release as a leader since 1998, and if there’s anything more impressive than his growth as a player, it’s his evolution as a writer. Some might consider him too cerebral—there’s clearly an underlying complexity to his detailed compositions that is rich grist for inquiring musical minds. But analyses of his potent blend of irregular meters, vivid counterpoint and abstract harmonies would be of little value if his music didn’t resonate so strongly. Stillman’s impressionistic bent may mean out-of-the-box melodic thinking, but despite that he’s unfailingly lyrical. Some writers are oblique for the sake of it, but it’s clear that Stillman wants his music to sing.
Bassist Scott Lee and drummer Jeff Hirshfield date back to Stillman’s second release, How Sweet It Is (Nagel-Heyer, 2003). The newcomer to the group is Gary Versace, more commonly heard these days on organ in guitarist John Scofield’s touring band, as well as with Indo-Pakistani guitarist Rez Abbasi and on his own debut, Time and Again (Steeplechase, 2005). Here he’s strictly on piano, and his abstract sense of musical suggestion is continued evidence of a significant musical voice gaining ground at almost warp speeds.
Stillman’s technique is formidable—making his alto sound flute-like on the moody miniature, “Vignette: Ghost Town” and evoking multi-hued multiphonics on the more insistent and deceptively-titled “I Don’t Know What We’re Doing.” But his tone, possessing a gradual and gentle vibrato, remains warm and appealing throughout.
The quartet’s simpatico is clear, despite communication being often so subtle as to be felt rather than heard. Feeling is, in fact, the defining characteristic of It Could Be Anything, where Stillman proves that it’s possible to create intelligently multi-layered music that is emotionally compelling and speaks with its own voice."
John Kelman -All About Jazz
"In a year when the hottest straightahead jazz CD featuring an alto saxophone player was recorded sixty years ago, it’s important to remember that we must live in our own times as well. And in jazz music, where players carry on into their '80s, Loren Stillman at 23 is like a ten year-old playing major league baseball. But what an arm! (So to speak.) Composing and playing in the tradition of Lee Konitz and Greg Osby, Stillman includes eight originals on It Could Be Anything, featuring the leader’s sweet tone matched with fluid soloing, satisfying melodies, clever countermelodies, and taut rhythmic interplay.
Stillman’s alto coos and trills on “Noushka Foo,” demonstrating a preference for reserved and gentle playing where many younger performers tend to favor volume and speed. Pianist Gary Versace’s piano is dry and witty on “Evil Olive,” and over the course of the disc his tasteful, in-control soloing vies with Stillman’s for lyrical dominance. “A Common Thread” speeds things up a bit, with Stillman blowing more aggressively in short, clipped clusters of notes. A brief duet with drummer Jeff Hirshfield closes the tune, Versace laying out and bassist Scott Lee entering to complete the trio.
Lee’s well-recorded and attention-focusing bass consistently centers the performances, repeatedly pulling the rhythms back into position and his contribution to the Stillman/Hirshfield dialogue holds promise for a future trio session. Stillman’s horn charms like a soprano on “Old San Juan,” taking its direction from Lee’s bowed intro, and “Simple Phrase” lasts only a little longer than two minutes but infuses the program with energy.
Finally, the band saves its best for last on Lee’s title cut, where driving pizzicato bass, quicksilver piano, finely edged alto, and crisp drumming all cohere in one of the best and most promising ensembles in jazz."
Jeff Stockton -All About Jazz
"Young alto saxophonist -- says here he's 23, which is pretty young for a guy who cut his first album in 1998. Last time I heard him he was pretty mainstream, but this quartet has some real zip to it. Gary Versace plays piano, Scott Lee bass, Jeff Hirshfield drums. Solid postbop, fast, sure footed. Thick booklet with a series of prints for each song and some actual info I haven't fully read yet. Worth thinking on further."
Tom Hull -tomhull.com
Loren Stillman Quartet