Tim Stevens Trio - Scare Quotes
Four stars SMH
Some musical performances reflect the interrelationship between the players more tangibly than others. In the Rolling Stones, for instance, you hear the camaraderie between Keith Richards and Ron Wood in the way the two guitars interact: sharing rhythmic repartee, finishing each other's phrases and blending into one complete guitar part without a trace of one-upmanship.
The Tim Stevens Trio's music may be more complex, but the warmth of the personal interaction still shines through the sounds. Melbourne's Stevens (piano), Ben Robertson (bass) and Dave Beck (drums) continue their seven-year exploration of both composition and free improvisation. "Awaiting Ben" presumably arose from Stevens and Beck spontaneously playing before Robertson arrived in the studio. Skipping cymbals and pensive, almost tentative piano notes gradually develop in density,
Stevens providing a counterpoint to his colleague's melodicism, rather than anyone "accompanying" as such.
As a trio they slide into Stevens' "Lu-Bird" with a lyricism that is entirely cooperative, rather being an asset luxuriantly radiating from the keyboard, alone. The overwhelming impression throughout the album is of players more intent on listening than asserting. When they collectively improvise they are like three brushes gradually covering the same canvas: prompting each other, but never painting each other into corners of limited options.
A sumptuous beauty permeates most of the music, aided by a wonderfully transparent recording quality.
John Shand - Sydney Morning Herald June 25 2011
Scare quotes is the fourth album for Rufus from Tim Stevens (piano), Ben Robertson (bass) and Dave Beck (drums), following Nine open questions (2004), Three friends in winter (2005), and Mickets (2008).
The program comprises six recent original compositions by Tim Stevens, most of which were premiered at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz, and five collective improvisations. Because the trio pursues both pre-structured and spontaneously improvised forms, and having attended to each on separate albums previously, the aim with this album was to demonstrate their relatedness through close placement.
The band’s primary objectives remain the development of a distinctive ensemble sound, with the personalities of its three members featured equally (and each in its own character), and the further elaboration of the interplay that has identified it thus far. The co-composition that takes place not only within the spontaneous improvisations but also through the exploration of the written forms is a hallmark of the band.
Beck’s drumming in ‘Lu-bird’, for example, where he has isolated melodic motives from the head and uses them as central elements in his contribution, is a structurally conscious demonstration of his extraordinary musicality. Robertson’s improvisations – dextrous, ambitious and always melodic – on the written tunes, extend upon his matchless work in accompaniment, where his harmonic understanding and rhythmic invention allow him to cast a breathtaking range of shades and colours over the material provided by Stevens.
And compositionally Stevens refuses to sit still; the level of concentration in the material, and the discretion with which it is developed, signal his continued evolution.
Scare Quotes is the latest document of a band committed to ongoing exploration. The journey continues!