Fire and ice, Dayna Stephens is the perfect storm!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
November 1st may seem a bit far away in the calendar to begin touting a new release but sometimes there are those that are simply too good to wait on, god bless pre-ordering(on iTunes now!). Peace is the fifth release for Stephens as a leader and experience working with artists such as Kenny Barron and Ambrose Akinmusire has catapulted him to the top of the improvisational food chain.
There is an all star collective to allow Stephens to fully explore his own lyrical interpretation of some of the more iconic ballad players in jazz. Brad Mehldau handles the piano duties while guitar phenom Julian Lage adds some texture which is further complimented from premier bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland. The intimate Horace Silver tune "Peace" is an emotive composition that finds Stephens working the old adage that one must sing through their horn, Stephens plays it predominately straight yet there is a subtle emotional warmth smoldering just below the surface. "The Good Life" is more of a deconstructed trio with Stephens, Julian Lage and Larry Grenadier yet the lyrical sense of purpose never waivers. "Body and Soul" is reharmed for baritone and this perhaps may be the harmonic wheelhouse for Stephens.
A ballad player can face the daunting task of having to overcome every possible chink in their lyrical armor. Dayna Stephens seems to have no weaknesses but instead shows a formidable maturity and seasoned lyrical grasp that some players twice his senior are still searching for.
Tracks: Peace; I Left My Heart In San Francisco; Zingaro; The Good Life; The Duke; Brother (From The Mission); Deborah's Theme (From Once Upon A Time In America); Oblivion; Body & Soul; Two For The Road; Moonglow.