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Bassist Vicente Archer has a quarter of a century of sessions and sideperson gigs behind him – oddly (or not), Short Stories is his first album as a leader. Working with pianist Gerald Clayton and drummer Bill Stewart – also his partners in guitarist John Scofield’s Combo 66 band – Archer essays a set of melodic tunes that aim for musicality more than virtuosity. That’s not to say each of these guys aren’t masters of their instruments – a cursory listen proves that they are. But this project proves a masterclass in collective will, as the musicians share a song-first aesthetic honed from years of playing together. Stewart’s “Space Acres” swirls around a steady 6/8 pulse that sways like a fence in the wind, with Clayton providing fireworks when necessary. Archer’s “Mirai” heads straight into a cloudy sky, a static presence as the breeze languidly blows the cumulus puffs across the blue. Pat Metheny’s “Message To a Friend” provides the kind of sentimental balladry for which the guitarist is known, with a sensuous twist from the leader and his troops. Stewart paints a swinging portrait of atmospheric jazz on his “Drop of Dusk,” while Clayton rollicks and Jelly Rolls over his “Round Comes Round,” as his bandmates clear a path. Archer puts his own spin on the blues for the sardonic “Bye Nashville,” while the trio puts Nicholas Payton’s “It Takes Two To Know One” through its groovy postbop paces…twice. The band rarely stretches out, preferring to simply bring their talents to bear to make each piece as purely musical as they can, making Short Stories a unique and tuneful experience.
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