****RINGER OF THE WEEK****Dayna Stephens: Peace

You’d think a ballads album would be easy to do, wouldn’t you? Just play the mellow theme, and show some heart. So, how come so few sax players can do it?

Dayna Stephens pulls of the trick perfectly. He switches between smoky tenor, Gerry Mulligan-fluffy baritone, and lithe soprano along with the stellar support of Brad Mehldau/p, Julian Lage/g, Larry Grenadier/b and Eric Harland/dr. They must have played Coltrane’s Ballads album every waking hour for a month, as the same tasteful restraint combined with mellow passion exudes on every bar. Subtle and delicate support by the understated rhythm help Stephens’ tenor roll in like a SFO Fog on Horace Silver’s “Peace” and a glorious “The Good Life.” Lage is a wonder hear, as well as on an intimate “Zingaro.” On baritone, Stephens glows like a full moon on “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and dances along the floor with Grenadier on a swooning “Body and Soul.” Mehldau is a joy as he partners with Stephens’ soprano on the lovely and lyrical “Brothers”, yet the mood of the entire session never shifts out of is romantic mood, keeping steady on the seduction for the entire album. A must for the mood to be woo-ed.

Sunnyside Records


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