Rick Stone's Fractals is an excellent hard bop recording. For this release, the guitarist is joined by his live band featuring Marco Panascia on bass and Tom Pollard on drums. The warm sensitivity these players show each other, undoubtedly perfected through countless hours of playing together, provides the perfect context for Stone's fluid solos. The guitarist's tone is truly gorgeous. It is rich, full and despite its well-rounded low end, always clear. Stone's tone and articulation are so inviting that even the most complex harmonic ideas never alienate the listener. The phrasing is sometimes reminiscent of Jim Hall (a compliment for any guitarist), but Rick Stone has his own sound as well.
The compositions on Fractals allow the guitarist to show off his range as a musician. His playing on "Stella by Starlight" and "Fractals" showcase his ability to build excitement and create direction through his solos. He never wastes notes. Further highlights include the bluesy runs in "Scoby" and the buoyant melodies of "Key Lime Pie," a touching tribute to the late Emily Remler. While Stone's intuitive solos are certainly the focal point of this recording, he is not limited to single-line playing. The group's versions of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and the guitarist's own "Places Left Behind" establish Stone as an excellent and original chordal player. Subtle touches in his playing, like the ringing open strings and volume swells in "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," show that Stone is not just a virtuoso, but a true craftsman of his instrument. The contributions of Marco Panascia and Tom Pollard should not be understated, as the two provide sympathetic support and add swinging solos of their own throughout this record. This is modern hard bop at its best. Recommended.