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JGT Album Review: John Stowell’s Rain Painting

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JGT Contributor Joe Finn reviews John Stowell and Dan Dean’s 2021 album, Rain Painting.

I wanted to mention how much I am enjoying the 2021 album “Rain Painting” by John Stowell & Dan Dean. Modernity meets tradition in this collection of Stowell’s compositions and Dean’s wordless vocal arrangements and bass playing. The guitar, bass and vocal sounds are all very much in keeping with the heritage of the jazz style. And Stowell’s playing swings like crazy. His improvisation is unfailingly melodic and he doesn’t tend to repeat himself or fall back on the little pet phrases we tend to hear a little too often from some jazz guitarists. These traditional and familiar sounds stand in contrast to Stowell’s compositions which are futuristic in terms of their extended forms, harmonies, and shifting metric devices we sometimes hear.

Dean is also playing percussion on this recording so there is an interesting sonic palette with lots of variety and contrast in terms of the coloration and texture. All of this adds up to a very satisfying listening experience with plenty of outstanding guitar work which is nicely balanced with the layered vocal harmonies and backgrounds. The multitrack approach to the engineering of this album is also worth mentioning and pretty amazing to contemplate. All the sounds on this intricate recording are the work of just two men who seem to have adopted a strictly perfectionistic approach. Every ensemble passage is tight, clean, and perfectly in tune. Yet you need to remind yourself that you are not listening to a band, because Stowell and Dean capture that spontaneous quality we associate with live ensemble performance.

Rain Painting will certainly be of interest to listeners who love jazz guitar music and fans of jazz vocals but I am sure that jazz listeners in general will love what they hear as well.

For more information on John Stowell’s music please visit:  http://www.johnstowell.com/


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