Stew Cutler
"Trio Live"

Stew Cutler

Review by Brad Walseth

This is an interesting recording encompassing a wide range of styles, and reflects the background of guitarist Stew Cutler - who started out as a young player working with blues great ZZ Hill, and has since worked with an eclectic group of artists like Bill Frisell, Wilson Pickett, David Sanborn, Harvey Brooks, Lester Bowie, Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Bobby Previte, Percy Sledge, Eliot Sharp and Jimmy Dale Gilmore. Recorded live with drummer Garry Bruer and bassist Gene Torres (who also engineered), this recording moves from blues to avant garde to rock fusion and world music in compelling fashion.

Cutler doesn't rely on effects as much as many of his peers and his energtic riffing at times recalls McLaughlin and Scofield. The opener "Left Behind" even calls up a bit of the spirit of Jimi on it's enjoyable ride. "Mourning Dance" slows it down a bit after the adventurous opener and the beginning shows Cutler to be equally adept at playing a down home blues that wouldn't seem out place on a David Bromburg album before the piece mutates a bit into a Frisell-like atmosphere. This is some quirky stuff - as the next number "Spaghetti Western" reminds us: here the blues and free form collide. Bruer provides solid drumming and Torres shows a deft touch on the lower register as well.

"East River Delta" starts out like an Allman Brothers tune with some hot slide playing then mutates into an Indian raga complete with Cutler's guitar morphing into a sitar. "Ardells Theme" features Torres' on some spicy bass licks, and is more a funky rocker, while "Whisper" is a quiet and delightful light piece that lives up to its name quite well. The wonderful "Cole's Mountain" may be my favorite - a folksy number in the Frisell vein, with a strong theme that canters between the melancholic and the melodic. Some real fine playing on this tune. "Yppie-Tai-Yi-Yo" follows and is a pleasnt lark, while the lengthy "Burma/Change of Heart" has some good moments, but not enough to support 14:36, and the album closer "Cut 'n' the Dove" is moody and mysterious and has its charms, but somewhat leaves you hanging, wanting more of the firepower Cutler displays earlier. As an intriguing mix of blues, jazz, rock and the kitchen sink displaying some seductively off-center guitar playing Stew Cutler's "Trio Live" should appeal to listeners who enjoy such outings.

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