Tom Stephenson – Perfect Circle
(Available from BandCamp. Review by Patrick Hadfield)
New releases from Glasgow’s lively jazz scene have been coming thick and fast this year, and this impressive debut from a trio of the Royal Scottish Conservatoire alumni is an impressive addition to the ranks.
Tom Stephenson penned all the tunes, but bassist Mark Hendry and drummer Greg Irons bring essential elements to the mix. Stephenson’s guitar takes the lead, at times reminiscent of Bill Frisell or John Scofield, but also with at least a nod or two in the direction of John Martyn.
Some of the tunes are self evident: Groove and Riff do exactly what the titles suggest, the latter having a rocky heaviness that would be worthy of the epithet “loud jazz”. Stephenson’s solo on the track builds powerfully, pushed along by Irons’ drums and some lovely bass playing by Hendry. Groove, the shortest track on the album, has an infectious slinkiness about it.
Glider is relaxed and mellow – perhaps the opposite of “loud jazz”! Abstract to start with, with lots of sustain (and presumably some other effects too) on Stephenson’s guitar, this leads into a solo by Hendry, once again showing his mastery of the bass.
The Sun’s Hat and Cornerstone both have a languid Americana mood. The Sun’s Hat is the opening track, and puts all three musicians through their paces in an upbeat, bouncy tune; Cornerstone is slower, with a more melancholy feel.
The title track is a piece of three parts. The first, Perfect Circle (Intro), features some gentle, moody picking by Stephenson, and it segues into Perfect Circle itself, which continues the light and lively vibe, and gently seems to bring the record to a close after nearly ten minutes. Then, after a minute’s silence, there is a surprise coda: an unnamed hidden track, a slow blues, wringing out another five minutes of heartfelt emotion before it too fades.