The Lighting of the Lamps Grant Stewart & Bruce Harris
- 1Little Spain06:58
- 2A Piece of Art06:02
- 3Ghost Of A Chance07:36
- 4Out Of The Past08:16
- 5Mo Is On05:12
- 6I'm A Fool To Want You06:46
- 8Bitty Ditty08:29
Info for The Lighting of the Lamps
New release of "The Lighting Of The Lamps", from acclaimed tenorist Grant Stewart. A quintet session that sheds light on some unfamiliar corners of jazz history, The Lighting Of The Lamps features regular collaborators, bassist David Wong, pianist Tardo Hammer and drummer Phil Stewart. The group is joined by special guest trumpeter Bruce Harris for a searching, straight-ahead date. Stewart, Toronto-born, former DownBeat Rising Star and collaborator with the likes of Jimmy Cobb, Harold Mabern, Louis Hayes and Clark Terry, returns to Cellar Music following his successful 2020 release of Rise and Shine. But listening back to this session on a gray, New York afternoon, Stewart was reminded not of daybreak but rather, dusk.
In particular, Stewart cast his mind back to the opening stanza of T.S. Eliot’s poem ‘Preludes’. It begins starkly, conveying the bleakly quotidian occurrences of a quiet, lonely city, before adding a chilling coda: “and then the lighting of the lamps.” “For me the poem really captures the feeling of life in the city, and of the sense of something beginning,” says Stewart. “For us musicians, quite often our day begins when the lamps are lit,” as dusk moves slowly into evening time and the city becomes a buzz of activity once more.
The album marked another opportunity for Stewart to record in the legendary Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. “It always feels like magic,” Stewart says of the chapel-like studio that has birthed any number of iconic jazz recordings since Rudy van Gelder opened it in 1959. That aura characterizes the exchanges here, as solo contributions carry a sheen added by the beautiful acoustic and esteemed surroundings.
The interconnectivity between the band members is one that can only be nurtured through years of playing together on bandstands. But the affectionate tones of a newer voice – trumpeter Bruce Harris – add an extra spark to proceedings. “I was really happy to have Bruce with me on this date. He’s a fantastic trumpet player, and we’ve got to work together quite a bit over the last few years.”
Harris impressed on his 2021 leader date Soundview and returned here bringing tunes along for the quintet to grapple with. One of those is the opening track “Little Spain,” written by Clifford Jordan and recorded in 1962 by Lee Morgan on Take Twelve. Stewart’s improvisation here has a striking energy; as Chris Wong justly relays in the album notes, this kind of play is a “masterclass in shaping and building momentum on a hard-swinging solo.”
The group is firmly embedded in tradition, a fact demonstrated by its approach to original tunes. The single new composition on The Lighting Of The Lamps actually comes from piano master Art Tatum – the chords for “A Piece Of Art” are lifted from the 1937 standard “All God’s Chilean Got Rhythm”, a favorite of Tatum’s – it’s an intense blow-fest for the ever-bustling frontline of Stewart and Harris.
Another fleet-fingered track arrives on “Mo Is On” by pianist Elmo Hope, featuring solo scurrying from Harris and Hammer. It’s not the first time Stewart has recorded the twisting tunes of Hope – some are also featured on his live trio record from 2017, as well as Young at Heart from 2008. “I really love his writing,” Stewart shares while discussing Hope’s compositions. “They really make you play differently. The harmony moves in ways you just don’t find in other composers.” The swirling, breathlessness of the track becomes one of many high points on the album.
The band offers a period to show its sentimental side on the timeless ballad “Ghost Of A Chance” before intricate solos fly on the hard-swinging, Latin groove-infused “Out Of The Past,” evoking the Benny Golson sextet.
Dexter Gordon famously recorded “I’m a Fool To Want You” in 1965 at the Van Gelder Studio. Fifty-six years later, Stewart re-records the composition with his wide, resonant tone projecting assuredly. Stewart also digs into his roots on “Bearcat”; learning the jazz fundamentals as a teenager in Toronto, he heard Clifford Jordan for the first time and later encountered him regularly on the circuit when he moved to New York at the age of 19. “Bearcat” is a track of Jordan’s that Stewart has always wanted to record, and the ensemble delivers it here with robust solos.
Harris’ choices bookend the album, concluding with Thad Jones’ “Bitty Ditty”, another lesser-known selection that the ensemble highlights. The musical direction and approach to soloing are consistent with Stewart’s career arc – finding new insights from old songs, making space for each player’s distinctive voice, and allowing an open atmosphere for heartfelt expression to shine through. As the sweet Jones tune brings proceedings to a close, those thoughts are never very far away.
Grant Stewart, tenor saxophone
Bruce Harris, trumpet
Tardo Hammer, piano
David Wong, bass
Phil Stewart, drums
Recorded at the studio of Rudy Van Gelder on November 5, 2021 by Maureen Sickler
Mixed and mastered by Shawn Pierce
was born in Toronto, Canada, on June 4, 1971, and moved to New York City at the age of nineteen studying with masters such as Donald Byrd and Barry Harris. He has performed internationally with Jimmy Cobb, Harold Mabern, Louis Hayes, Curtis Fuller, Renee Fleming, Clark Terry, Bob Mover, Etta Jones, Bill Charlap, Lewis Nash, Peter Washington, Brad Mehldau, Russell Malone, Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, Harry Connick, Mickey Roker, Jimmy Lovelace, Cecil Payne, Dick Hymen, Herb Geller and was a member of the last Al Grey Sextet.
In New York, Stewart can be found playing at such clubs as Smalls, Lincoln Center, Birdland, SMOKE, The Kitano, The Jazz Standard and many more. Stewart has performed all over North America and Europe as well as in Japan, Brazil, and Taiwan. He was also one of the first jazz artists to be invited to play at the historical Hermitage Museum in St.Petersburg, Russia. In addition Grant was a featured artist at the Guggenheim Museums’ Jazz series with his trio including drum legend Jimmy Cobb.
Stewart has released sixteen recordings as a leader, the highlights of which are his most recent release Grant Stewart Trio on Cellar Live Records and his award winning Live At Smalls (2012), released on Smalls Live Records, In the Still of the Night (2007), Young at Heart (2008), Grant Stewart Plays the Music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn (2009) and Around The Corner (2010). He also has co-led two sessions with fellow tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander on the Criss Cross label and has appeared on many other recordings as a sideman.
From 2008 until 2015, Stewart has been voted a “rising star on the tenor” in the Downbeat Critic’s Poll and was the subject of a feature in the July/August 2009 issue of JazzTimes magazine. Downbeat magazine has also featured Grant in its the December 2008 issue in a piece written by noted jazz writer Ted Panken. On the international front Stewart was named one of the top 3 tenor saxophonists and as number 7 jazz artist of the year by the noted jazz magazine Swing Journal in its 2009 poll.
“Powerful in a form that combines tension and relaxation like that of Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon, Grant is one of the most powerful stylists and one of the most under-estimated on the scene. His sincerity, demonstrated in his straightforward, honed music, affirms completely his power of expression. He is a burning representative of that New York style which is notably found to express itself at Small’s, Mitch Borden’s club.
Working with a close-knit circle of musicians he frequents the aristocracy of jazz at the limits of the underground.” – Jazz Hot Magazine (France)
“Stewart’s clarion sound and command recall Sonny Rollins, but his chops put him on a special level. He is not an imitator, but an artist who further illuminates and even expands the domain of expression first opened by Rollins.” – Thomas Conrad, Stereophile
“Stewart’s tenor is tight, rich and played full tone, instantly enveloping you in the sheer strength of his sound….staying away from established phrases and creating a researched personal sound, he produces a fresh resounding tenor.” Swing Journal (Japan)
“Stewart is one of the most dynamic modern day interpreters of the bebop language—delivering his goods with a bold deep sound, rich melodic imagination, and flawless technique.” Zan Stewart, Newark Star Ledger
“He has such an individual sound that he never gives the impression of reciting the lessons of his models.” Jazzman Magazine (France)
is a New York born and raised trumpet player, who’s debut album as a bandleader is aptly titled Beginnings (Posi-Tone, 2017). The album features Harris in the frontline with a rotating cast of top-notch saxophonist, including Jerry Weldon, Andy Farber, Grant Stewart, Frank Basile, and Dmitry Baevsky. The steady rhythm section throughout the album consists of his working band — pianist Michael Weiss, bassist Clovis Nicolas, and drummer Pete Van Nostrand. With an amazing combination of talents, some brilliant performances, and an evocative program of music, Beginnings successfully proclaims Harris as an important and emerging voice in jazz.
Harris’ affinity with music began as a child listening to his grandfather play the alto sax in his family’s Bronx apartment. Mentored at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College by Jon Faddis, Harris received his Master’s degree in Jazz Performance in 2009 and went immediately on to perform with jazz luminaries Barry Harris, Frank Wess, The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars, Winard Harper, T.S. Monk, Myron Walden, Kendrick Oliver's New Life Jazz Orchestra, Jimmy Cobb, the Artie Shaw Orchestra and the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
In 2013, Wynton Marsalis selected Harris for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “After Midnight,” and Harris has since been one of the young cornerstones at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, Doha, Qatar and Shanghai. He has toured with countless major acts, and has been a long time fixture in The Count Basie Orchestra, one of the most classic and important jazz big bands today. He can be seen regularly performing with his quintet, and big band in the hottest clubs all over the world.
This album contains no booklet.