Louis Stewart- Out On His Own
(Livia Records. Album review by Adam Sieff)
There’s no doubt that Louis Stewart (1944-2016) ranks among the finest jazz guitar players, just ask one and they’ll talk about the Waterford man’s sense of musicality, virtuosity and sumptuous tone. He was an integral part of one of Tubby Hayes’ best lineups, a member of Ronnie Scott’s Quintet and the club’s house band and performed with Benny Goodman, George Shearing, Clark Terry and many others before becoming a leader in his own right.
Out On His Own was recorded in 1977 on a flying visit home from his London and European schedule. Following a trio recording (Louis The First, 1975) and a duo set with double bassist Peter Ind (Beyond Baubles, Bangles and Beads, 1976), it was only fitting that this time Stewart should be the only musician present, accompanying himself on a second guitar on half of the tracks. The album is now being reissued by a newly reactivated Livia Records on 24 February, almost half a century after label founder Gerald Davis first released it.
The CD (vinyl is due to follow) has been expanded from the original album by five tracks. Three had been added to a previous CD release in 1995 by the German specialist guitar label Jardis, and two tracks are now heard for the first time. The sound is gorgeous, the original album was beautifully recorded in just over a day by Pat Hayes at his basement studio in Bray (on the coast near Dublin), and the new mastering by Michael Buckley brings out all the subtlety and warmth of Stewart’s Gibson archtop.
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The repertoire is mostly a familiar mix of American Songbook standards and jazz compositions. Some of the solo performances are so spectacular, such as I’m Old Fashioned, that it may take a minute to determine if it’s one of the self accompanied tracks or not. Stewart’s two guitar approach works very effectively, especially on a high tempo Blue Bossa and a beautiful version of Chick Corea’s Windows.
There are some less obvious choices, such as General Mojo’s Well Laid Plan by Steve Swallow, with it’s pretty melody, and an all too short version of the traditional Irish folk song She Moved Through the Fair. One of the previously unissued tracks is a fine two guitar version of Charles Lloyd’s Forest Flower and the off the cuff Blues is sensational, Stewart digging deep with searing runs and turnarounds.
This is an excellent reissue of an important Irish jazz album by a wonderful jazz guitar player.
LINKS: The album on Bandcamp
Out on his Own is released on 24 February