Stew Cutler – Insignia (2001)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:03:12 minutes | 1,42 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Source: HDTracks | Artwork: Front cover | © Naim Label
Recorded: Recorded at Union Church, Hinsdale, IL., 29th and 30th January 2001
Insignia is a trio recording in the fullest sense of the word rather than two rhythm voices backing up the lead, featuring the huge and fluent talent of Garry Bruer on drums and Booker King playing crystal clear and bone-vibrating bass.
After having trained with electric bass master Harvey Brooks, Stew then proceeded to perform all over the world with Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, James Montgomery and Eddie Floyd. Not satisfied with this, he has also recorded with legends such as Bill Frisell, David Sanbourne and Wayne Horvitz.
I feel proud to have helped bring this superb album to light – by introducing the wonderful jazz/blues guitarist Stew Cutler to a doctor friend of mine (Alan Eiges) to play a party, he in turn told a producer friend of his (Ken Christianson) about Stew’s fine trio and was instrumental in getting the trio to record for the much respected UK label – Naim. Stew’s superb trio includes Booker King on bass and Garry Bruer on drums.
Ken recorded this marvelous trio in a church in Hinsdale, IL. and the sound is just perfect. Commencing with the beautiful, laid back elegance of ‘Whisper’ – Stew has a superb, warm tone not too different from the lovely sound that Bill Frisell uses in recent years. The first solo is actually a swell one from bassist Booker King – Stew’s solo is next and it is the essense of taste, balancing jazz and blues lines with a purity that shines. ‘QT’ also shifts between a funky, blues section (Zony Mash-like) and a complex, spiraling section with intricate changes. I dig how the bass sets the tone on ‘Lovely Mary’ another exquisite, bluesy, laid back gem which starts with a dream sequence and then turns into a Latin groove thing. On ‘Left Behind’ Stew starts with some nice volume swirls, but soon the drummer is spinning quickly while Stew adds some hypnotic sustain-tone to his guitar and the trio takes off for the stratosphere as the pace gets quicker and Booker plays another inspired electric bass solo. Stew digs in and lets the blues wail with a slow burn groove on ‘East River Delta’ with some subtle yet greasy slide and some finger twisting grit.
Another great thing about this release is the way Stew’s tunes are filled with nifty surprises – they often start one way, yet change midstream and become something else, but it all evolves so naturally. ‘Saudades on 8th Ave.’ has a great finger snapping latin groove and more tasty solos from the guitar and bass. ‘Elizabeth’ has an enchanting, laid back and funky groove which shifts between the slow grease and swinging jazz vibe with a long, story-like solo from Stew right out of Wes Montgomery-land. Stew takes things further out on ‘Left Alone’ where he uses some spaced out echoes on the guitar for the intro and then glides with bluesy echoed slide for the rest of the tune – the song does have a lonely feel, so the title is pretty apt. The title track ‘Insignia’ is the longest one here and begins with a blues-drenched stop and start rhythm and builds from hushed waves and warm, gracious jazz guitar slowly letting those notes get fatter as his tone gets thicker – the drummer and bassist both take fine melodic solos which continues the flow just right – Stew also takes another fine, ultra subtle guitar solo with delicate volume pedal or pinky action that has an endearing dream-like haze. If any of you have been disappointed in the last few Bill Frisell cds for being too mellow, I urge you to give the Stew Cutler Trio a chance – an immensely sublime and superb jazz/blues guitar trio treat!
Stew Cutler’s electric guitar sound borrows from very few discernible sources, and as such is difficult to pigeonhole. There’s a leanness to his style that is not enhanced or processed by electronics, though he occasionally does leap out with elements extracted from pedals or effects. Using a spare trio of electric bass guitar and drums, Cutler is just barely on the cutting edge of modern mainstream, contemporary, and even fusion jazz, but hints at it rather than pronounce its glory. On this program of all original music, Cutler plays pleasant swing jazz on “Whisper,” utilizes a bluesy slide guitar on “East River Delta,” trims a spare modal but intricate line in alternating bars of seven and five during “Saudades on 8th Avenue,” and uses loops and effects in an insular self-examination during “Left Alone.” “Left Behind” is dissimilar, using a steel-edged rock sound, with beats courtesy of drummer Garry Bruer, that reflects the British fusion of Allan Holdsworth, while a fun and funky “Elizabeth” playfully hops around courtesy of bassist Booker King and “Q.T.” is perhaps the most innovative track, with a swirling repeat melody as a prelude to a tick-tock chorus and another bluesy refrain. While Cutler does have moments of languidness, sluggishness, or sentimentality, the music is generally hopeful. The 14-minute title track discourses from slow funk to more upbeat moments, letting the guitarist cut loose a bit. While not yet a distinctive voice, Cutler is quite literate, enjoyable, and witty in an internal manner. His music requires close listening to hear the flowers blooming in very rich soil. -Michael G. Nastos
1. Whisper 07:39
2. QT 02:32
3. Lovely Mary 05:24
4. Left Behind 06:49
5. East River Delta 04:12
6. Saudades on 8th Avenue 04:46
7. Coles Mountain 04:34
8. Elizabeth 08:12
9. Left Alone 04:55
10. Insignia 14:08
Stew Cutler, guitar, slide guitar
Garry Bruer, drums, percussion
Booker King, bass