When a group of musicians have been playing together for twenty years, there sometimes develops an intimacy in the music that transcends the work and is conveyed to the listener as a form of completed dialogue. On their sixth recording together, aptly called just “SIX”, the Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson Trio has just that kind of dialogue. The result is an evolved expression of their music that enables individuality and synergy within a shared dialogue space.
On “SIX”, the trio blend a combination of uniquely arranged classics like the Hart/Rodgers tune It Never Entered My Mind , the Arlen/Rose composition It’s Only a Paper Moon and the Thelonious Monk standard Straight No Chaser with an innovative arrangement of Tennessee Waltz. These great numbers are delivered with a smattering of originals by the musicians that come together to make for a finely crafted disc of very entertaining arrangements and performances.
Stevens is a highly accomplished pianist and holds the title of “Steinway Artist”, clearly in recognition of his playing, composing and arranging as well as his forty-plus year career and sixty-five plus recordings. His work has long been complimented by the great acoustic bass work of Tim Ferguson, himself and accomplished player and composer. A critical component of the dialogue between these musicians is the groove delivered by their interchange and the technique of a remarkable drummer, Jeff “Siege” Siegel. Siegel has played with a long list of who’s who in the New York and European jazz scene. He has also gained notoriety as a composer and has a number of other projects ongoing as do the other two musicians.
On “SIX” the trio opens with an arrangement of It Never Entered My Mind that immediately shared that dialogue of their twenty year relationship. The subtlety of the piano, bass and drum interaction is definitive of this trio. The balance, exchange and courtesy shown in their execution are pleasurable to the listener throughout the CD.
Other tracks are executed with that same sensitivity. The combination of tracks that the musicians chose to showcase their own compositions was my favorite part of the CD. The Fire and Green Room are two compositions by Ferguson that showed a wide range of viewpoints. One, a quick and rampant grooving number the other a deeply moving blues with a wonderful bass solo to open it up. Song For Rio is Stevens only contribution to the song list, but its presence is no less obvious than any of the others. It’s bossa rhythms add another dimension to the CD, reflecting yet another viewpoint. Two of my favorite tracks on this CD turn out to be Siegel’s compositions, Shifting Sands and Remembering Shirley. Shifting Sands is a melancholy number with a blues feel that lends itself perfectly to Ferguson’s bass solo, in which each note pulls on the notion of change. Finally, Remembering Shirley the last track, a true blues number, allows Stevens to deliver a soulful rendition while Ferguson and Siegel lie back in the pocket and let the mood fill the room.“SIX” is a CD that brings to the listener what one would expect from a positive twenty year long relationship between three highly accomplished musicians. It brings a familiarity, a familiarity with the music, with each other, and with the kinds of compositions listeners can really enjoy. “SIX” is executed with a sense of confidence, and safety and enthusiasm that is heard in the music. An anniversary recording, maybe, or perhaps the sign of things to come!