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Trio/Live by Stew Cutler

Guitarist Stew Cutler gets all of his stuff out in one live recording. Trio/Live is betwixt and between jazz and avant-garde, blues and soul, rhythm & blues. Along with drummer Garry Bruer and bassist Gene Torress, the trio consumes ten compositions and throws them back as a pile of smoldering ash.

The trio begins this 2004 session, recorded at different spaces in Pennsylvania and New York, with "Left Behind." Cutler sends a thin, whiny line that elasticizes through the air. It’s a warm-up and a shake-up as Bruer furiously beats time and Cutlter deftly picks at notes. The thuddy bass notes of Torres gallops up to his tinny, buzzy solo in the slowed-down section at the end.

"Mourning Dance" plays out the kind of wrung-out and dispirited feelings one gets but is too tired to rise up and do anything about. There is no resolution in sight for this type of blues! The time is free and dangles where Cutler’s fingers wag. "Mourning Dance" is one big cadenza, and that is challenging in that each man is relying on his ears, eyes and gut to communicate these emotions.

Cutler hits the ruddy earth with "East River Delta". It’s thick with changing speeds and times and swirls with eastern inflections. This piece exemplifies Cutler’s brand of "avant-blues", employing irregular shifts in tempo and atmosphere. "Ardells Theme" gets funky and Cutlter leaves no lick unturned. Is that a putdown? Absolutely not. It’s a treat to listen to an artist tipping his hat to his influences and, in Cutler’s case, to his employers and bandmates - like vocalist Arziel "Z.Z." Hill and guitarists Wilson Pickett, Eliot Sharp and Jimmy Dale Gilmore.

"Cole’s Mountain" sounds like a contemporary blues-rock anthem that speaks to a generation trapped by the manufactured angst of today’s Adult Contemporary and Rock groups and their longing for radio staples by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. Cutler slides in with a six-note riff that is the skeleton of the piece. By the fourth and seventh measure, Bruer and Torres have jammed their feet in the door. All three play it close to each bar and never slip out of the slick groove they’ve created.

Cutler brings about some Southern hospitality and twang on "Yippie-tai-yi-yo". Performed comfortably in ¾ time, Cutler coos as Torres shuffles his brushes like a pair of well-worn boots along a dirt wood-board floor. Both Cutler and Bruer take liberties with the tempo as they ease each time into the tonic (the C chord) from the V7 (the G7 chord). This gives "Yippie-tai-yi-yo" authentic charm. Cutler cuts out with "Cut ‘n’ The Dove", a free solo work that partially relies on electronic effects to create stillness and a bit of introspection.

Folks like Cutler are fortunate to partner with record labels that nurture artistic growth, musical integrity and are willing to shout from the rooftops their dedication and faith to the music. Cutler’s with New York-based Fountainbleu, a label that 1) shares his passion for roots music and 2) is in close proximity to him (he lives in New York.)

Trio/Live is a slim but satiable guide through parts of Americana and one looks forward to more extended works from the trio. When one puts their finger firmly down on one destination on a map, they, in actuality, will go nowhere. Cutler travels freely around the musical globe and seems to find his way around with no problems.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Stew Cutler
  • CD Title: Trio/Live
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Fountainbleu
  • Tracks: Left Behind, Mourning Dance, Spagetti Western, East River Delta, Ardells Theme, Whisper, Cole’s Mountain, Yippie-tai-yi-yo, Burma/Change of Heart, Cut ‘n’ The Dove
  • Musicians: Stew Cutler (guitar), Garry Bruer (drums), Gene Torres (bass)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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