So I went and got all impatient-like and put the Double Trio’s with whom you can be who you are up as a Bandcamp digital download way back on August 7 – the very day I received the master, and a couple of weeks ahead of the CD’s arriving. The CD did arrive, of course, and once again I was reminded of how much I like to unfold the cover and see the dedication and read the notes – all that nonsense. Call it old school if you like; perhaps I’m still at school.
I’ve talked a bit here and there already about the album, because it’s been a very big thing for me. Four years taken in the achievement of it – not exactly unbroken effort, because I did a couple of other things too, but that’s a fair while, really. Beethoven only took two for the Eroica.
And now I’m just being silly. Forget that, about Beethoven.
But then things do happen at strange rates. The recording and release of this album have taken place this year; it was recorded on April 5 & 6, and then it came home to be sorted out. I listened and listened and found the bits I liked best and even made some home edits. These impressed our engineer, Chris Lawson, who can obviously edit far better than I can; he was simply surprised I think that I’d have taken the trouble to tackle it myself. But I wanted to hear things all put together, something like what they’d be when it was all done, and I’d nutted out Audacity a good few years ago so it was no great trouble. Audacity being refreshingly uncomplicated, you know. Mastering, following mixing (which was a very collaborative enterprise, in the sense of ‘I like that but I’m not so keen on that’ [hence it goes back for another mix]) only took place on August 7. So – four months. Actually, not that long at all. But boy did it feel like an eternity. Because when you’ve made something you want to get it out there. You just do. (Probably improvising performers are the most impatient customers of all. It’s in the job description.)
I am, to be completely honest with you, ridiculously proud of this score. And outrageously proud of the band, and of the record we’ve made of our work. I have listened to it dozens of times, and I’m really pleased with the sound that Chris got from us in the studio, and of how we played this really quite challenging music. The session, too, was a blast. I like the progress from one track to the next, and Naomi’s concluding line at the end of ‘t.h.’ I think a most appropriate conclusion to the whole affair.
But enough about me. At Bird is the Worm, Dave Sumner kicked off the review game, placing with whom among the month’s best releases on Bandcamp. Quoth he: ‘Always in flight and immensely free, this lovely session from the trio of pianist Tim Stevens, bassist Marty Holoubek, and drummer Tony Floyd wouldn’t go soaring nearly as high were it not a collaboration with the string trio of Madeleine Jevons, Phoebe Green, and Naomi Wileman. Even when it’s the piano trio exerting [its] influence on a passage, the music flows with an effortless gait. But there’s no denying the fact that each piece grows wings and takes off when strings enter the mix. What’s particularly intriguing is that this isn’t really a typical jazz with strings session. It’s no simple a task for modern piano jazz to achieve a unity with a string trio’s fondness for chamber music structure, and yet the Melbourne-based pianist makes it seem nearly effortless. This is music that’ll uplift the spirits no matter how bleak.’
Barry O’Sullivan contributed a piece for Jazz and Beyond, writing that ‘Despite his incredible performing capacity and résumé, Stevens’s gifts have largely flown under the awards radar. This new recording has the potential to change that. The improvising trio meets the classical trio of strings and collaboration is the way forward to great things with the entire ensemble joining together supporting the piano melodies sumptuously and stylishly. The elements that shine through mostly are Stevens’s accomplished compositional ability and his commitment to integrity in performance. […] All of Tim Stevens’s past work has been thoughtfully rendered and artistically significant, but this recording of exceptional quality may just be his masterpiece and one that moves him closer to the jazz pantheon’ – and giving the album five (out of five) stars.
Perhaps you need more. Here is Dan McCleneghan, offering four and a half stars, at All About Jazz: ‘The compositions (Stevens calls them movements), all originals, are named with the initials of what Stevens’ describes as “dear friends of mine,” people “with whom you can be who you are.” Crafting a sound to capture the essence of individual human beings is certainly a tricky business. Stevens has, befittingly, created seven complex, multidimensional, compelling and purely beautiful movements, a suite celebrating the bright side of the human soul.
‘Stevens is a master improviser who solos with, by turns, eloquence and energy, with an introspective elan and a reverent, touching tenderness. His arrangements exploit the strings to perfection—the players are animated with an assured intensity and a joyous panache.
‘Those individuals Tim Stevens nods to with this music must be wonderful people. This gorgeous and irresistible music says so.’ [Ed.: They are.]
So the press reaction has been positive, at least so far. I have had personal messages too attesting to the affecting quality of the music, and these are enormously gratifying also.
The business of this post however is to draw your attention to the CD launch, at St Stephen’s Anglican Church, Richmond, on October 7 at 4pm. The double trio will congregate – with Ben Robertson standing in for Marty Holoubek – and play the piece all the way through. We don’t know how often we’re going to be able to do this, so we’d love to see you there. Bookings can be made here, so hop to it.